Letter: After its humiliation at Gorazde, the United Nations could still salvage a little credibility

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The Independent Online
Sir: To the world's horror, the UN has refused to protect the Gorazde safe area. But unless it wishes to lose what little moral authority it retains, it must act vigorously to ensure the safety of the 65,000 mainly Muslim civilians who are now falling into hostile hands.

Our charity has worked extensively with refugees from towns near Gorazde, such as Foca and Visegrad, which fell to Serbian offensives in the summer of 1992. The picture we have assembled of violence against civilians has been consistent and horrifying. I have listened to mothers telling of the stabbing of their children and the mutilation of their menfolk. Grotesque but repeated episodes of forced baptism and the desecration of mosques are the shame of the Christian world.

The people of Gorazde now face a similar threat. The strategic importance of the town makes it unlikely the Serbs will wish to leave a substantial Muslim population there. The usual mechanisms of ethnic cleansing - detention camps, rape centres, the destruction of monuments and the execution of the civil leadership - will almost certainly now swing into action.

The UN and UNHCR must, as a matter of urgency, send in civilian monitors, backed by troops, to co- operate with the Gorazde town hall in listing the names of all individuals in the town. This list would then be periodically checked to ensure that the occupiers are not engaged in a policy of ethnic cleansing. Since the objective would be humanitarian and not military, our politicians should not be afraid of it. And if the Serbs refuse to agree, they should be asked to explain their motives.

Yours sincerely,

TIM WINTER

Chairman

Bosnia Aid Committee of Oxford

Oxford

From Mrs Anica Wilkinson

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