Letter: Injustice of proposals for Bosnia

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Sir: It may be that the Bosnian government and its supporters feel compelled by their desperate condition to agree to some variant of the Geneva proposals for ethnic partition of their country. Even if that is so, we wish to urge the governments of Europe and the US - and the United Nations as a whole - both to refuse to endorse the settlement and to ensure that the Bosnian government is not bullied by the international mediators into accepting it. The following points need to be emphasised.

First, the proposed settlement is in direct contradiction, despite the claims to the contrary in its opening lines, with numerous resolutions of the Security Council and the London Conference. The only logic underlying its division of the country is the acceptance of aggression. It sanctions ethnic cleansing and effectively separates Bosnia-Herzegovina into three segregated republics.

Second, the territorial division is so unfair as to be impossible to implement. Since at least 18 per cent of the population are non-Muslims supporting the central government, many of them in mixed marriages, the proportion of Bosnians who would wish to live in the country's central core would be well over 60 per cent. Yet they would be confined to under 30 per cent of the country's territory. The congestion of central Bosnia due to the influx of refugees will be economically unmanageable, while much of the 50 per cent left under the control of Serbian nationalists will have barely one quarter of its pre-war population.

Third, the constitutional provisions are bizarre. They leave the country with a totally unworkable and essentially undemocratic government, in which a minority of the population will control two-thirds of seats in the assembly.

Fourth, the clause guaranteeing the restitution of property to refugees is worthless. For were it to be implemented it would at once produce a non-Serb majority in many areas surrendered to Serbian-nationalist control. The Croatian inhabitants of Vukovar have never been permitted to return to their homes, despite similar UN undertakings. Non-Serbs will not be allowed home here either, unless the UN is prepared to use force.

Fifth, the Croatian nationalist statelet of Herceg-Bosna is an absurdity, with hardly half a million inhabitants and a claimed capital (Mostar) that, until ethnic cleansing began, had more Muslim than Croatian inhabitants. It makes no sense even for Bosnian Croats, and should be seen only as a step on the road to annexation by Croatia. Thus, if the international community were to sanction the proposed division, it would be sanctioning an arrangement destined to lead to the formal break-up of Bosnia in direct contradiction to numerous international undertakings.

The unacceptable character of the settlement serves only to demonstrate once again that for the international community there can be no honourable alternative to insisting upon a single, united Bosnia-

Herzegovina, with a genuinely democratic constitution and strong safeguards for minorities. Instead of accepting a greatly enlarged military involvement to enforce an unjust and unworkable settlement, it must use force to make a just one possible. This still remains a feasible objective and one that might well require a smaller military involvement. The determined use of air power to protect an enlarged number of safe havens, combined with a raising of the arms embargo upon a Bosnian army taken under UN command, remain, we are convinced, by far the best way to hold together justice, political legitimacy and military practicality.

Yours sincerely,

DAVID ALTON MP; LORD AVEBURY; PROFESSOR MICHAEL DUMMETT; SIR ANTHONY DUFF; PROFESSOR ADRIAN HASTINGS; SIR REGINALD HIBBERT; QUINTIN HOARE; LORD HYLTON; CALUM McDONALD MP; PROFESSOR NIGEL OSBORNE;

BILL TRIBE

Alliance to Defend Bosnia-Herzegovina

London, W11

30 August

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