Press Briefings

10 December 1999

Transcript: Joint Press Conference

10 December 1999, 11.40 Hours
Coalition Press Information Center
Tito Barracks

Alex Stiglmayer, OHR: We apologize for the delay. There was a de-mining conference going on here which lasted a little bit longer. I have one announcement today. This morning, the High Representative, Wolfgang Petritsch, has issued a decision abolishing the municipality of Skelani, which the National Assembly of the Republika Srpska created in 1992 and which was never recognized by the International Community. When the municipality was established, no referendum or other consultations were held among the majority Bosniac population of Srebrenica or Skelani. The High Representative believes that the RS National Assembly simply wanted to isolate the town of Srebrenica and strip it of security, territory, and economic resources for political reasons.

Today, one of the major tasks for Bosnia and Herzegovina is the enforcement of the right of all refugees and displaced persons, I quote, "freely to return to their homes of origin." This right is enshrined in the BiH Constitution. The Constitution also states that only laws, regulations, and judicial rules of procedure consistent with the Constitution will remain in effect. Further, Annex 7 of the Dayton Peace Agreement calls, among other things, for the creation of political, economic and social conditions conducive to the voluntary return and harmonious reintegration of refugees and displaced persons.

The existence of the Skelani municipality is in contradiction to both the BiH Constitution and the Dayton Peace Agreement. It has a negative effect on the work of the newly established joint administration in Srebrenica and hampers Srebrenica's chances for economic recovery and employment opportunities because it cuts the town off from its economic resources. For all these reasons, as of today, the municipality of Skelani no longer exists. The settlement of Skelani is again part of the municipality of Srebrenica.

And, I have one short announcement on behalf of IMC. Yesterday, the IMC Council held its regular three-monthly meeting to discuss appeals and recent decision made by the IMC Director General and the enforcement panel. Among others, they discussed the EROTEL appeal. The Council decided to uphold the Director General's decision of November 15 which ordered EROTEL to cease its broadcasting activities. EROTEL had submitted its appeal on November 29th. The submission of an appeal does not defer or delay the execution of the decision.

And that is all I have.

Tanya Domi, OSCE: Good morning for OSCE. I have several announcements this morning, and I hope you can bear with me. In conjunction with the Skelani announcement by the High Representative, the Provisional Election Commission on December 7th decided that municipal elections shall not be held in Srebrenica on April 8th, 2000. Municipal elections in Srebrenica shall be conducted on the first Saturday in October, 2000, unless the High Representative determines that the conditions in Srebrenica are such that elections cannot be held in October, 2000. In this case, the High Representative may postpone the municipal elections. The Provisional Election Commission considered the fact that the municipal authorities in Srebrenica were only established in June, 1999, after nearly 20 months of negotiations. Consequently, the current authority's term in office would have been less than 10 months, preventing them from addressing substantive issues such as return and reconstruction which require continuity.

In a previous PEC decision, as you all know, on November 23rd, the PEC did make a decision stipulating that candidates for the municipal elections 2000 must be in compliance with the property laws. And the conditions for those requirements was spelled out in the rule, which means that if a candidate was in the receipt of an administrative decision by a housing office and enforcement decision issued pursuant to the Commission on Real Property Claims or a court decision had been presented to the candidate with deadlines, they were, and they are required to comply with those various orders. What the PEC decided on December 7th was an implementation, operational plan for the appropriate implementation of this decision. The implementation of it will be carried out by the OSCE Human Rights department in cooperation with the PEC.

After the 20 December deadline for candidate submissions, the elections department will initially review the candidate's list. These reviewed lists are not final because they will not be approved by the PEC by the time they are sent to the field. At the beginning of January, these initially reviewed candidates lists will be sent to the Human Rights officers in all OSCE Field Offices. At the same time, it will be publicly announced in the media that all citizens who have a property decision in their favor as established in the rule, the PEC rule, can go to the nearest OSCE Field Office and check the candidates list to determine if a person who is illegally occupying his or her flat is on the list. If a person with decisions pursuant to this rule, in other words, if they received and administrative decision, an enforcement decision from the CRPC or a court order, who is illegally occupying his or her flat is on the candidates list, this person determining this, any citizen, can submit a completed complaint form to the OSCE. The Human Rights officer of the OSCE which check the complaint form and documents to confirm the complaint is founded. This completed complaint form and the Human Rights officer's recommendation will be submitted to the Provisional Election Commission together with the relevant documents.

Human Rights officers will also independently check the candidates list. If they determine that a candidate is in violation of the rule, the Human Rights officer will also complete and submit a complaint form to the Provisional Election Commission together with the relevant documents. Political parties, and let me reiterate, political parties and coalitions will not have the right to replace candidates who are determined to be ineligible to stand as a candidate if they are in violation of this rule. And, the PEC will maintain its jurisdiction over these cases, and they cannot be appealed to the Election Appeals Sub-Commission. And the PEC's decisions are final. Now, we're going to put this out in all languages, but I wanted people to know that this was decided at this week's PEC, the operational plan.

Moving onto another issue, today, the Mission, actually, Tuesday through yesterday, the Mission in cooperation with assistance of the Swedish government, actually trained 262 prosecutors in Sarajevo. And the training was focusing on the fight with organized crime and combating corruption. There's a more complete press release outside.

I'd also like to announce, and there's a full media advisory on this outside, that the OSCE Vienna Secretariat, also in cooperation with the Foreign Ministry of BiH, will host on Monday and Tuesday, December 13th and 14th, a seminar on the environmental impact of conflicts and rehabilitation measures. There are more than 120 participants scheduled to attend, including officials of BiH, the Foreign Minister, Minister Prlic, and also the Austrian Ambassador to OSCE, Dr. Jutta Stefan-Bastl. Bastl is expected to make opening statements. The media is invited to attend at the opening at 1000 hours, and you can get more information outside.

Lastly, I would like to report that yesterday in Vienna, Ambassador Robert Barry, the Head of the OSCE Mission, made his 1999 final report to the permanent council. In his remarks, he called for the adoption of the Election Law currently before the BiH Parliamentary Assembly. A number of delegations supported his call for the adoption of the election law, including the EU Presidency, and a statement of support about this is outside. But, he also addressed other aspects of the Mission's activities, including a regional report in his role, and it was his final report, as the Special Envoy of the OSCE Chairman in Office. And if anyone wants a copy of these remarks, you can contact me or the press office.

Thank you.

Wendy Rappeport, UNHCR: Good afternoon from UHNCR. UNHCR would like to take this opportunity to thank the German government for its generous and rapid decision to contribute 624,000 DEM which it has donated to UNHCR Minority Return Program. The funds will assist vulnerable returnees who have moved into their reconstructed homes. In addition, the German government has also donated 200,000 DEM in food assistance for DPs and refugees living in collective centers in the Republika Srpska. This assistance will greatly contribute to the needed support for refugees and displaced persons still awaiting a durable solution. In 1999, Germany has already contributed one million DEM to UNHCR for food assistance for refugees from Kosovo, Sdazak, and other parts of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in refugee centers in Bosnia.

Also, the meeting of the Humanitarian Issues Working Group of the Peace Implementation Council was held in Geneva on 8 December. In her closing remarks, the High Commissioner for Refugees, Madam Sadako Ogata stated that she believes that the International Community is determined to remain fully engaged in our combined efforts to achieve lasting peace and stability in the region, including through a close relationship between UNHCR and the Humanitarian Issues Working Group, as well as the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe. She said that to have about two million people displaced from their homes in Europe at the end of the 20th Century is not tolerable, and we must not abandon the responsibilities of the Dayton Accord, including that of making it possible for all refugees and displaced people to return to their pre-war homes. After discussions during the Working Group meeting, she feels even more strongly that in planning for returns, and especially minority returns, we must be realistic, matching available options with the actual wishes of refugees and displaced people. The High Commissioner's opening and closing remarks can be found on our Internet web site.

Last, December 12th marks UNHCR staff day, a day when the staff of UNHCR around the world come together to remember colleagues who have died during the year pursuing the humanitarian goals of UNHCR. This afternoon in Geneva, the High Commissioner will make a speech and a minute of silence will be observed throughout the world in honor of these colleagues, to celebrate their work and the work that UNHCR partners do together.

Thank you for your attention.

Douglas Coffman, UNMIBH: Good afternoon from the UN Mission. The Special Representative of the Secretary General, Jacques Paul Klein is very disappointed with the comments made yesterday by Dr. Harris Silajdzic regarding Mr. Klein's recent trip to Banja Luka and considers them very unhelpful to the work of our mission. Dr. Silajdzic obviously took some of Mr. Klein's comment out of context. As Dr. Silajdzic is aware, UNMIBH has been working for months to establish a civilian police contingent to represent Bosnia and Herzegovina in a UN peacekeeping operation. It would consist of police officers from both the Federation and Republika Srpska.

The establishment of such a contingent would, one, demonstrate to the International Community that cooperation can exist between the police forces; two, demonstrate the increase police professionalism in the two entities; and three, increase the sense of identity of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a State.

UNMIBH officials have been discussing this project with all levels of government. In fact, it was one of the subjects that Secretary General Kofi Annan discussed with the Joint Presidency during his recent visit. There is no reason to misinterpret our intentions. UNMIBH commends the responsible officials from both the RS, Federation, and State level institutions who have supported this initiative. UNMIBH would like to call on all politicians to refrain from making comments that only complicate this significant process.

Thank you.

Captain Marc Theriault, SFOR Spokesman: Dobar dan from SFOR. Yesterday the 28th Joint Military Commission meeting was held at SFOR Headquarters. Achievements this year and prospects for the next were discussed by senior military representatives from the Entity Armed Forces and SFOR. After the meeting, Lieutenant General Willcocks, SFOR's Deputy Commander for Operations, conducted a news conference. A transcript of his statement will be available shortly.

SFOR wishes to clarify how reductions of the EAF are linked to the demilitarization of the Brcko district. The Brcko demilitarization plan was arrived at following detailed and lengthy consultation with all parties to be affected. It includes the disbanding of several units and the destruction of their weapons. These actions constitute part of the overall 15% reduction by year's end of military budget and forces agreed to by the Tri-Presidency members in July. The balance of the units to be disbanded will come from other regions. In a new development proposed by the Entity Armed Forces at the Standing Committee on Military Matters on 8 December and agreed to by SFOR, the weapons belonging to these units will be stored under SFOR control as part of a wider, regional, demilitarization.

The 28th meeting of the Joint Military Committee again demonstrated that we are moving from an era of compliance to an era of consensus. SFOR acknowledges the cooperation demonstrated by the EAF during the past year, and we look forward to continued progress in the New Year on issues of mutual benefits to the EAF, SFOR, and the people of BiH.

Thank you.

Alex Stiglmayer, OHR: Okay, questions?


Vedran Persic, OBN, Q: Alex, regarding those 800 cases of illegal occupancy in Banja Luka, is OHR going public with some kind of position? 800 cases of illegal occupancy in Banja Luka, which Schwartz-Schillings was saying yesterday that there are some reports that Ambassador Frowick gave precise list of those 800 cases, what is OHR's position about that?

Alex Stiglmayer, OHR: I mean, this list was drawn up by DP associations. It was given to the OHR quite a while ago. We gave it to the Ministry for Refugees to check it. Ambassador Johnson gave it to the Ministry and Ambassador Frowick gave it to the Ministry too. It's all the same list and repeated appeals to check whether the allegations are true, and if they are, of course, take action.

Vedran Persic, OBN, Q: Have they, I mean, have you contacted them recently and asked them, did they track that?

Alex Stiglmayer, OHR: We are in constant touch. Of course, they said that they're going to check it, and things are happening. I mean, there are statements in Banja Luka, but the process could go much faster. I mean, we're not entirely satisfied.

Vedran Persic, OBN, Q: Maybe, like for Doug, one question. Can you give us more details about the ICTY investigation in Zvornik?

Douglas Coffman, UNMIBH: No.

Vedran Persic, OBN, Q: No? And, maybe for Tanya. Can you give us details from yesterday's meeting of Petric, Barry and Prolic, regarding the elections in Croatia?

Tanya Domi, OSCE: Yeah, I can make some comments about that. They did meet to discuss the issue of how many polling stations will be on the territory of BiH. And that still hasn't been clarified yet, so I believe it continues to be the OSCE position, and we've been working with OHR on this issue, that the range of the number should be somewhere between six and 15. There seems to be some, there seems to be, actually, a lack of definition about what the Croatian authorities believe is a consul office that would be made available to voters to vote in. And so, right now, you know, there is an effort to try to reach a clear understanding about what they define is a consul office, and then, subsequently, how many are there and where will they be located. And the OSCE position continues to be, as was issued also in the communiqué from Brussels, that those eligible voters in the Banja Luka area should be provided the opportunity to, in fact, vote. But now, what should be made available are voter registration lists, and at this point, they are not available. So, these issues were brought up and discussed.

Vedran Persic, OBN, Q: Is it maybe too late to discuss with the Croatian authorities in Croatia about those registration lists for the Serbs, Krajina Serbs that are living in Bosnia and Herzegovina because the elections are like three weeks from now.

Tanya Domi, OSCE: Sure. If this can't be resolved, that is a possibility that there will be discussions directly with authorities in Zagreb about this. Fairly soon.

Vedran Persic, OBN, Q: And maybe, how Bosnian authorities can help in this process? It's all up to will from Zagreb to let those Krajina Serbs to vote.

Tanya Domi, OSCE: Well, I think the Bosnian government needs to, as they indicated yesterday in the discussion with Ambassador Barry and the High Representative, is that they want to be helpful. They are trying to be constructive, but I think right now what the issue is we're waiting for the Croatian government to really give final instructions as to clarifying these definitions and the numbers. And so, I think, from the Bosnian side, it sounds like they are being helpful. And I think there will be more meetings sooner rather than later.

Daria Sito-Sucic, Reuters, Q: Alex, following the IMC's reduction of EROTEL's appeal, what is the procedure going to be since OHR has already filed the request for SFOR to help IMC to ban broadcasting? Is it now up to SFOR to take an action? And this is also a question for SFOR.

Alex Stiglmayer, OHR: SFOR could take action if they decided so, but our offer is still on the table, and there have been recent changes in the EROTEL structure, and we hope that maybe negotiations can resume and we can find the solution.

Daria Sito-Sucic, Reuters, Q: Can you please tell more about what offer is on the table?

Alex Stiglmayer, OHR: It is the offer that has been on the table forever, and that the IMC decision, the first one, upholds. EROTEL has to reduce its footprint, go back to using 11 transmitters, and reduce HRT broadcasting from three channels to one.

Daria Sito-Sucic, Reuters, Q: So for how long the offer will be on the table? I mean, if they don't comply. If they continue not to comply.

Alex Stiglmayer, OHR: It is difficult to say, I mean, it depends on how things develop.

Daria Sito-Sucic, Reuters, Q: SFOR, could you answer the question, please?

Captain Marc Theriault, SFOR Spokesman: Yes, I will answer your question. It's pretty simple. We will continue the planning for different options. I know it may sound a little short, but this is the reality. We're still planning for different options, and as you are fully aware, we do not discuss operational matters openly.

Amra Kebo, Oslobodjenje, Q: Doug, how many policemen from the Federation will go to the UN Mission?

Douglas Coffman, UNMIBH: The final numbers have not been decided yet, but we expect two-thirds of the officers to come from the Federation and one-third to come from the Republika Srpska. And, it will be one-third, one-third, one-third, related to the different constituent people.

Amra Kebo, Oslobodjenje, Q: Why didn't you discuss it up to now?

Douglas Coffman, UNMIBH: No, we have discussed it….

Amra Kebo, Oslobodjenje, Q: No, no, you said yesterday, Jacques Paul Klein said two days ago in Banja Luka, eleven policemen from the Republika Srpska will go.

Douglas Coffman, UNMIBH: Right, we have requested from the Federation the names of 80 individuals, and we have requested from the Republika Srpska the names of 40 individuals. They have not supplied numbers anywhere near that large so far. And additionally, all these people then have to be tested and then be trained. So, at the end this may mean only 12 people go, it may mean 50, it may mean 70, but that decision has not been made yet. But we hope that the first group will be able to leave as soon as January. East Timor is probably the most likely candidate right now.

Antonio Prlenda, Oslobodjenje, Q: Is there any discussions or disputes about insignias of the unit?

Douglas Coffman, UNMIBH: The position of the UN is that they will wear the uniform that they are currently wearing, so if you're serving in the RS, you wear and RS uniform. If you're serving in the Federation, you wear a Federation uniform. But then, everybody will also have the patch of Bosnia and Herzegovina on one shoulder and the patch of the UN on the other.

Antonio Prlenda, Oslobodjenje, Q: …did you have problems with it?

Douglas Coffman, UNMIBH: I don't think we have problems with that right now, no.

Vedran Persic, OBN, Q: Can you just, once again, Doug, clarify about the January thing? What will be in January about these police officers?

Douglas Coffman, UNMIBH: We hope that the first group will have been identified, tested, and trained, and then they can be deployed. And we have, once again, we have not finally identified the people that will be serving. We have to do testing, to get the testing process, we have to get money from funding to do this, and then we have to train them, and the training takes several weeks. Of course, the holiday season coming up makes it a little more complicated, but we think we can do it in January.

Vedran Persic, OBN, Q: So there are, for example, chances that they will go to East Timor, let's say, in February? Maybe that police group?

Douglas Coffman, UNMIBH: In theory, they can go in January. Maybe February, maybe March. And, once again, we won't just send one group, it will be several groups.

Vedran Persic, OBN, Q: Who will pay for their costs down there in East Timor? Bosnia or UN?

Douglas Coffman, UNMIBH: We're working on that problem right now. But, once again, once they're there, the UN will pay part of, will pay their subsistence allowance.

Antonio Prlenda, Oslobodjenje, Q: If it's East Timor, then as far as I know, there has to be a tremendous medical preparation of them because of those sickness and a very much complicated health situation in East Timor.

Douglas Coffman, UNMIBH: Usually, you get a series of shots to go. I served in Cambodia and I had to take shots. That whole process took, I think, a week in the States, and then another one once I arrived in the mission. I assume it will be something similar to that.

Antonio Prlenda, Oslobodjenje, Q: Do you know who will provide all the medicinal needs for the mission?

Douglas Coffman, UNMIBH: These are the things we're working on. The UN is trying to get funding to make sure that this happens. Obviously, the State of Bosnia and Herzegovina does not have all the necessary funding to do these things, so we are trying to solve that with them and with member states who would be willing to contribute.

Alex Stiglmayer, OHR: Okay, thank you.

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