STRASBOURG, France (September 30,2008) - The Bosnian President Haris Silajdzic met with the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Lluis Maria de Puig, and with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Terry Davis in Strasbourg,France,the Bosnian State Presidency said.
President Silajdzic said in the meeting that he respects the Council of Europe for dealing with the issues of human rights and democracy, which are important issues for Bosnia.
He also underlined it was important to talk about the genocide which was committed by the genocidal Serbian fascist aggressor against the Bosnian people,during yje 1992-1995 Serbian aggression against Bosnia, and for which the UN is also responsible. De Puigo emphasized that Bosnia can always count on the Council of Europe’s help.
In the meeting with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Terry Davis, the issues of human rights and segregation in education were discussed, and President Silajdzic said the idea of apartheid cannot survive in Bosnia.
The Bosnian President Haris Silajdžić also addressed the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honor to address the autumn session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Allow me to express my sadness at the passing of Lord Russell Johnston, who was your peer for twenty-three years and who ably presided over this Assembly between 1999 and 2002. Lord Russell Johnston worked tirelessly on human rights issues until the very end, and our thanks and sympathies go to his loved ones.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Bosnia and Herzegovina highly values the work of the Council of Europe and its bodies and institutions. We have often been direct beneficiaries of this work, and have as a result of it made improvements with respect to the rule of law, human rights, and democracy. For this, I convey to you the gratitude of the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
We are mindful, however, that we continue to face a number of obstacles We have a long way to go before Bosnia and Herzegovina is able to live up to the principles that constitute the very foundation of this body.
Even the progress that Bosnia and Herzegovina has made often falls prey to the discriminatory arrangements that are built into our system of governance. While Bosnia and Herzegovina was among the first five countries to ratify Protocol 12 to the European Convention, it is the only country in Europe, and the world, whose Constitution, bars some of its citizens from seeking office solely on the basis of their ethnicity.
To be sure, the Dayton Peace Agreement ended the war, aggression and genocide. Its value in such a context cannot be denied. But Dayton was also intended to reduce discrimination and reverse the effects of genocide and ethnic cleansing. On paper, it had all the necessary elements to do so.
Indeed, Annex 7 of Dayton guarantees that all refugees and displaced persons shall have a right to “return in safety, without risk of harassment, intimidation, persecution, or discrimination, particularly on account of their ethnic origin…” In practice, and in the words of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Constitutional Court, we have been witnessing:
“a systemic, continuing and deliberate practice of the public authorities of Republika Srpska with the goal of preventing the so-called ‘minority’ returns, either through direct participation in violent incidents or through the abdication of responsibility to protect the people from…violent attacks due solely to their ethnic background.”
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This matter, clearly, is not solely our concern. On the contrary, we are hearing statements this week, in these halls, that the right to return in another European context is not an important right, as demonstrated by the fact that it was never implemented in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Do these statements suggest that Republika Srpska has succeeded in creating an international precedent? Does one get to keep the ethnically clean slate created by butchering and expelling those who are different?
If that is allowed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it will serve as a dangerous precedent and will seriously undermine this institution’s other objectives in my country. Dayton was clearly not designed with a la carte implementation in mind, as one of its components cannot function without the full functioning of the others. Obstruction of some of Dayton’s elements was born precisely out of a desire to stifle democracy and preserve ethnocracy.
One effect of this obstruction is that entity voting has morphed into an ethno-territorial mechanism, whereby only 22 percent of deputies in the State Parliament, all of them Serbs, and all of them from Republika Srpska, can block any decision they desire. Indeed, precisely because 1.2 million have not returned, there are only two non-Serb deputies from the RS, far from enough to unblock obstruction. Conversely, since a vote from RS is worth double a Federation vote under entity voting, this is a one sided mechanism.
And what has this entity voting been used for? Just in the last two years, it was employed five times to block changes to the Citizenship Law that would permit dual citizenship. Unless these changes, modeled on the European practice, are passed, over half-a-million Bosnian refugees, who fled the country not of their own volition but under the threat of death, stand to lose their native, Bosnia and Herzegovina citizenship.
This, Ladies and Gentlemen, is genocide and ethnic cleansing by other means. The plan calls for eliminating on paper those who could not be eliminated in person. The weapon of choice is entity voting. And this weapon is still there despite the clear language in this Assembly’s resolution 1513 that mandates that entity voting itself be “eliminate[d].”
It is not the implementation of Dayton, but the violation of its core principles, that led to the ethnic apartheid we see today in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are about to start work on a new Constitution, and allowing this practice to continue will not make that process a successful one. Instead, we will see secretive and pressurized negotiations, resulting in a flawed document. I know because I was there two years ago when the April package of amendments, that the Venice Commission heavily criticized, was offered instead of a meaningful constitutional reform. You know as well, because you were here at that time, adopting a Report that unequivocally stated that it was the “this [entity] voting system, the insistence on it and its political implications, which is to blame for the failure of the constitutional initiative, not a handful of individual representatives who voted against the [April package].”
It is for these reasons that I ask you to clearly identify the culprits and hold them accountable. Indeed, if Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot end school segregation because Dayton gives it no competencies to do so, where should the finger be pointed? Likewise, if only 22 percent entity-voting deputies block the law on the census, refusing the EUROSTAT-recommended disaggregated data, should the 78 percent majority who voted for the census be equally blamed? Finally, if we do not create a Supreme Court, as you and the Venice Commission tell us we should, is the blocked majority to blame?
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Please clearly tell us what the European standards are, and I, for my part, pledge that I will entirely accept those standards. I am certain that I speak for a clear majority of the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina here. There are those who say that they would choose an ethnocracy and its institutions over Europe, but should such views be relevant in today’s Europe?
In fact, is today’s Europe substantively different from Europe 60 years ago? Are we now only declaratively in favor of the rule of law, human rights, and democracy, but secretly still harbor respect for brute force? Do we condemn genocide through a verdict of the International Court of Justice but do nothing to eliminate its results? I hope that we are not such a Europe. I hope that we are a Europe in which ICJ judgments are implemented and not left in the archives of that Court. I hope that we are a Europe that realizes that, in the long run, values will always win against short-sighted pragmatic interests.
I could quote the ICJ Judgment to remind you what values are at stake, but, instead, I will quote my good friend Lord Russell-Johnston, whose account of the Srebrenica genocide is almost identical to that of the Court seven years later: “almost ten thousand…husbands, fathers, and sons, some only ten or eleven years old, even babies,… were killed in a five-day-long spree of homicidal madness, committed by the Bosnian Serb troops under the command of Ratko Mladic, an indicted war criminal, who is still at large.”
While we applaud the recent arrest of Radovan Karadzic, the fact remains that some of the institutions that the ICJ Judgment explicitly identified as perpetrators of genocide are still in existence. We also applaud the revision of the indictment against Karadzic, which now includes two counts of genocide, across Bosnia and Herzegovina, and against both Bosniaks and Croats. Finally, considering that the ICJ Judgment is the first and only judgment under the Genocide Convention in history, I hope that this Assembly will consider its implications.
We have not forgotten the help we received from many of you, and for that we thank you once again. However, without a comprehensive reform of the Dayton Constitution, little progress will be made, threatening peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region. I hope that the monitoring process will continue, and that we can also count on the continued help of the Venice Commission in this regard. Rule of law is important as it regulates an otherwise chaotic world, and we need such regulation more than ever. There must be a notion that justice exists, and people must be able to believe in it.
Finally, I hope that we can count on you to identify those who are committed to Europe of the twenty-first century versus those whose thinking is still dominated by the sixteenth-century ideas of ethnic fiefdoms. Ironically, Bosnia and Herzegovina was for centuries a genuine multi-ethnic society whose unique fiber was almost destroyed through mass slaughter, rapes, torture, abuse, expulsion and plunder at the end of the last century. Helping us reverse the effects of those crimes and to build a modern constitutional state that is true to its multiethnic character will make both Bosnia and Europe a better place",the Bosnian President Haris Silajdzic said in his address to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe