By Sgt. Kerensa Hardy
First published in
SFOR Informer#110, April 4, 2001
Sarajevo - Since the war, there have been apparent
changes in the structure, mindset and general behaviour of the
police forces in BiH.
The International Police Task Force is largely responsible for
the changes taking place, which have made for a more professional
and smooth-running police force.
IPTF was created under the General Framework Agreement for Peace
in Bosnia and Herzegovina (GFAP) to help with the police in this
country after the end of the war, said Douglas Coffman, UN Mission
in BiH spokesman. "There are approximately 1,800 members
from 47 different countries and their primary responsibilities
are to advise, train and monitor the police throughout the country,
as well as restoring and restructuring them."
Local police forces have also received training in senior management
and narcotics control, among other areas.
The more than 20,000 officers in BiH are spread out among 14 different
police forces, all of which are being restructured by the IPTF.
tasks were to ensure that the police made
the transition from a wartime police force to a peacetime police
force," Coffman said. "They also had to change their
way of thinking from the former communist system to operating
under democratic norms. This was a big challenge."
IPTF officers work out of UN facilities or are co-located in 250
local police stations throughout the country.
"We have no executive authority, we do not carry weapons
and we cannot arrest people," Coffman explained. "That
is all the job of the local police and our job is to push them
to do that in a professional manner."
the war, the police forces of BiH were much larger than they are
now. Coffman said the force was more like an extension of the
Army rather than a police force. They carried weapons with military
power and wore military-style uniform.
"The biggest challenge was
you still had a war-like
mentality amongst the population and amongst the political leadership,"
Another element of the restructuring process is altering the ethnic
mak-eup of the force.
"BiH used to be a patchwork of ethnic communities throughout
the country," Coffman said. "But during the war, most
of the country turned into mono-ethnic regions."
IPTF at work
In Janja (Eastern Republika Srpska), the
Chief of Police Security Station was de-authorised by
IPTF commissioner March 28. Petar Kojic's de-authorisation
was on the grounds that he was responsible for the failure
of the Janja police to act properly during riots of July
2000 that were ethnically motivated, and that he also
was unable to appropriately respond to the October 2000
looting of a Bosniac-owned property.
Over the past two years or so, IPTF was very instrumental
in assisting the police force recruit minorities. Two police academies
have been set up - one for Republika Srpska in Banja Luka and
one for the Federation in Sarajevo.
The vast majority of cadets attending the academies are minorities,
Coffman said. Seventy-five percent of RS academy cadets are Bosniacs;
90 percent of Federation academy cadets are ethnic Bosnian-Serbs.
"We have two agreements signed - one with RS for the restructuring
and democratisation of the police and one with the Federation
- called the Bonn-Petersberg Agreement," he said. This agreement
lays out what the ethnic make-up of each police force should be
in specific areas. "We have made progress in meeting those
numbers, but we are still quite short."
One of the major accomplishments of the IPTF is the establishment
of the first truly multi-ethnic police force in Brcko. So although
there is much work to be done, significant progress has been made.
"The police today act in a much more democratic fashion,"
the spokesperson said. "They're making progress and
looking and acting like police officers from a western European
country. The local population has gained much more confidence
in the police and they are becoming more multi-ethnic to represent
the communities that they serve."
police officers from both entities and three peoples were sent
to East Timor as part of the UN mission there. "By sending
those 12 officers, we really sent a message to the world that
progress is being made in BiH, and especially so in the police,"
IPTF is also involved in helping BiH take action against the trafficking
of women for forced prostitution. Coffman said they helped conduct
raids against brothels and night-clubs in BiH and have identified
and returned home 250 victims of human trafficking, most from
Romania, Ukraine and Moldova.
The investigation of human rights violations by police while conducting
their duties is another important aspect of the IPTF's function.
If any complaints are founded, the guilty police are removed from
the force permanently.
The UN has set up trust funds to pay for extensive training, equipment,
uniforms and vehicles - everything police officers need to do
Like all other stabilisation missions within BiH, IPTF has established
a desired deadline.
"By the end of 2002 we hope that all of this will be set
up and the officers will just need to be monitored," Coffman
said. "We think that we'll have a nice-sized democratic police
force simply needing some monitoring supervision."
However, meeting the desired deadline will depend on developments
in the political arena. "That, of course, will slow the implementation
of the mandate. Right now we have the problem in the Federation
authorities and a split between Bosnian-Croats and Bosniacs, which
obviously directly impacts on our work," he said. "We're
looking to establish a fully functioning Federation police force,
and there's a real possibility that the Bosnian-Croats will walk
out of that force.
"We hope that these politics do not affect the co-operation
and integration of the police
but if it does, of course,
it will require us to work harder and stay longer."
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