By Sgt. Kerensa Hardy
First published in
SFOR Informer#111, April 18, 2001
Bosnian-Croats gathered in large numbers and caused
riots in southern areas April 6. This was sparked by investigations
of several bank branches suspected of links to the Croatian Democratic
Union (HDZ) by international organisations.
Sarajevo - Top officials from the international organisations
responded to a demonstration by approximately 1,000 disgruntled
protesters that resulted in total chaos and disarray on the streets
of Mostar and other areas April 6.
COMSFOR Lt. Gen. Michael Dodson and High Representative Wolfgang
Petritsch addressed concerns during a press conference April 7.
"The high representative asked SFOR to support the installation
of a provisional administrator in order to secure Hercegovacka
Banka," Dodson said. "Specifically, SFOR was asked to
provide a safe and secure environment for the inspection teams
from the OHR and Federation of BiH auditors." The teams were
sent to carry out investigations in Orasje, Vitez, Tomislavgrad,
Posusje, Siroki Brijeg, Grude, Medjugorje and Mostar, where the
banks were believed to be controlled by Bosnian-Croats.
Twenty-two SFOR soldiers sustained minor injuries as a result
of the riots. In Grude, 10 SFOR and civilian personnel were held
want to make very clear that the operation to stabilise the bank
is continuing," Petritsch said. "The documents secured
will undergo analysis by the Federation. He added that his staff
made every effort to collect the bank documents in such a way
that the bank would be re-opened as quickly as possible.
"The bank robbers (April 6) were well-organised B-Croats
who broke into the main branch of Hercegovacka Banka in Mostar
and other places
they robbed the very people they claim
to represent," Petritsch said. The high representative expressed
his dismay at the treatment of members of his staff by the separatists.
"One of my staff was hiding in the bathroom with the mob
outside trying to break the door down." In Grude gunmen took
several Federation and international personnel hostage. "Forced
confessions were extracted from several of the hostages in which
they were made to say on camera that they had been forced by the
international community to audit these banks.
"Let me state this very clearly, this is a lie and shows
just how ruthless these people are," he said. "One investigator
was taken outside and threatened with execution. We have secured
these people's release. But I'm sorry to say I thought such horrible
and frightening accounts
would have ended five years ago
with the end of the war."
Dodson said those who incited the unrest had total disregard for
the very group of people they claim to represent. He said they
also put innocent members of the community in unnecessary danger
and caused injury to their own people.
"Had it not been for the disciplined and highly professional
approach of the SFOR soldiers and those members of IPTF and the
local police in support of the high representative, there is no
doubt the damage to property and people would have been much greater,"
Dodson said. "And had this been the case, those who whipped
up the sort of turmoil that we saw in parts would have been entirely
Petritsch praised the actions and bravery of the citizens who
assisted his staff by hiding them in their homes and washing the
tear gas out of their eyes.
Both COMSFOR and the high representative made it evident that
this type of behaviour is completely unacceptable.
me be clear, I will not hold any dialogue with extremists who
to gain their end," Petritsch said. "Neither
I nor COMSFOR will tolerate mob rule. These mobs were clearly
organised and must face the full weight of the law."
"In a free society, those who commit fraud, corruption and
practice illegal activities are all invariably brought to justice,"
Dodson said. "This concept may be alien to the selfish minority,
but the people that they affect the most are the very people whom
they allegedly represent."
The SFOR commander stated that minimum force was used in this
operation "out of respect for and consistent with the sort
of behaviour it might expect to find in law-abiding citizens."
"SFOR does have the capability of overwhelming force, but
when you go downtown to a town like Mostar or Grude, you expect
to encounter perhaps inquisitive citizens and some who, perhaps,
are angry because they seem to lack the knowledge of what's going
on," he explained. "For that reason we tried to be as
gentle as we could. In hindsight had we known that this was going
to be a
we might have acted differently.
"Out of respect for the people, we didn't want to go in there
with tremendous force and disrupt the whole city."
Related link: SFOR
Our Partners - OHR