'Use troops to stop atrocities': Investigator urges UN to intervene, not write reports, over human rights abuses in Bosnia

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The Independent Online
THE NEWLY appointed human rights investigator for what was Yugoslavia, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, yesterday urged the United Nations to intervene, rather than passively write reports, to end violations of human rights across Bosnia. He demanded the organisation use its peace-keeping soldiers to prevent atrocities.

The hard-hitting report by the former Polish prime minister, recently appointed rapporteur by the UN Human Rights Commission, puts him on a collision course with the UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, as well as many Security Council members, who oppose direct intervention.

He was not alone in calling for intervention. The Portuguese Foreign Minister, Joao de Deus Pinheiro, said if this week's Geneva peace talks produced no results, force would be 'the only possible alternative'. He was speaking after talks with Lord Owen, co-chairman of the joint European Community and UN initiative.

Lord Owen warned against expecting a quick breakthrough at the peace talks, opening on Thursday. 'We are going to try and move away from artificial deadlines, ceasefires and breakthroughs,' he said. 'This is a painful, difficult and time-consuming process.'

Mr Mazowiecki's report is seen as long overdue by human rights organisations. Groups such as Helsinki Watch have severely criticised the UN for trying to remain neutral in the face of grave violations, from execution of prisoners to the torture of priests and nuns.

Over the past few months UN officials and peace-keepers have stood by, unable to prevent Serbian militias from driving Muslim refugees from their homes and sending many to detention centres. The UN's restrictive mandate bars officials from interceding, however gross the human rights violations.

Mr Mazowiecki, 65, is also seeking the establishment of an international commission to investigate war crimes. On his return from a five-day visit to Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia, he called for a great expansion of the UN's operations in Bosnia and a change in the UN peace-keepers' mandate, to enable them to take action when they witness human rights abuses.

Mr Mazowiecki also said he had heard from an 'impartial source' that prisoners had been executed by the notorious Serbian White Eagles paramilitary group, which operates in northern Bosnia. He added that there were 'particularly grave incidents of physical abuse of Catholic priests and nuns' in the region of Banja Luka.

Mr Boutros-Ghali reluctantly agreed to an expansion of the peace-keeping force in Bosnia after last week's London conference, but has resisted efforts to expand their mission from protecting humanitarian aid supplies to protecting the human rights of Bosnians.

In his damning report, Mr Mazowiecki urged that the United Nations Protection Force, which has fewer than 1,500 soldiers and officers in Sarajevo, should be enlarged to cover all Bosnia and that staff should collect information and hear complaints on human rights violations.

Mr Mazowiecki proposed heavy weapons in Bosnia be brought under international control, and that all irregular forces be disarmed. He also called for a tough UN warning to authorities controlling different parts of Bosnia that they are governed by international humanitarian law and can be brought to trial not just for perpetrating atrocities but for tolerating them.

He demanded International Committee of Red Cross access to detention camps and other centres, and for a commission to be set up to investigate the disappearance of more than 3,000 Croatian soldiers and civilians after the Serbian seizure of Vukovar last November.

Panic no-confidence motion, page 6

(Photograph omitted)

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