The UN International Police Task Force
by Capt. Javier Marcos
First published in SFOR Informer #1, January 8, 1997
Mostar -- According to the General Framework Agreement for Peace, negotiated at Dayton, Ohio, to establish a lasting peace in Bosnia and Hercegovina, the international community had to provide for an immediate and lasting cease-fire; separation of military forces, and the withdrawal from demilitarised zones by all warring parties.
All these tasks were to be carried out, not only by IFOR and now SFOR, but also with the support of other important international organisations. The United Nations plays an important role in many of the aspects of Dayton Agreement, essentially in the civilian implementation and stabilisation processes. One of these roles is under the responsibility of the United Nations International Police Task Force (UNIPTF).
Monitoring fair play
"We are monitors of the police forces of the Republic of Srpska and the Croat-Muslim Federation," said IPTF Deputy District Commander of Mostar, Lt. Juan Carretero. " We have to verify that the local police of the three factions, accomplish their daily job while respecting the local citizens human rights, treating everybody in the same way and allowing freedom of movements within guidelines of the Dayton Agreement," Carretero added.
Like SFOR, UNIPTF comes from all over the world: there are 1,650 men and women from 34 countries, wearing blue berets and driving 573 white vehicles with "UN" written on the side. They all have at least eight years of experience on the streets of their countries. Unlike SFOR, the IPTF conducts their patrols unarmed.
"We do not have weapons because we are just monitoring, and also because we want to be absolutely integrated into their society. Most of us are living mixed within the local population so that we can better know each other," said Carretero.
Official complaint channel
The IPTF is also focused on ensuring that internationally-accepted standards are followed in policing and criminal justice activities of local police. They also assist in ensuring that elections can be carried out fairly and in an atmosphere free from violence or intimidation, and with respect to the freedom of movement.
"We are helping displaced people to move back into their homes; to look for missing people and to make possible contacts between refugees and Non-Governmental Organisations," said Carretero.
"We are also the official channel that population uses to lodge official complaints. We then transmit this complaint to the proper, competent authority and then, monitor all of the steps the complaint goes through, until we have a final resolution."
Although without executive authority, the IPTF has authority to access all facilities, records, monitor all activities and proceedings of the police and criminal justice system at any time to ensure that internationally recognised standards are being accomplished.
International Police Task Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina has its Headquarters in Sarajevo and is divided into three Regional Headquarters; Banja Luka (5 districts, 18 stations), Sarajevo (5 districts, 21 stations) and Tuzla (4 districts, 14 stations).
Like SFOR, the UNHCR United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other important organizations, the IPTF is an essential part of the international communitys efforts to bring real and lasting peace and democracy to Bosnia and Hercegovina.