Letter: Too many old scores in Bosnia

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Sir: Further to Lord Kennet's letter (24 July), Bosnia remains unstable because the Dayton agreement did nothing to resolve the territorial disputes between Bosnia's three constituent nations. Dayton is little more than an elaborate ceasefire agreement.

The arrest of Bosnian war crimes suspects by Nato forces will not improve the situation and will only increase tension in the region. Even if all the mainly-Serb "indicted war criminals" were captured and delivered to The Hague, the fear and mistrust among Bosnia's three groups would not diminish. Bosnian Serb fears of Muslim domination would probably increase. The Bosnian Muslim army - with "justice" firmly on its side - would have even less compunction about attacking Serb territory once Nato forces depart.

Secret indictments and "snatch squads" will also make the return of refugees to their homes more difficult. No one who fought in the recent war will contemplate living with former neighbours so long as the fear of prosecution for war crimes exists. Moreover, all sides in Bosnia have valid reasons to believe they have been the war's main victims and all sides will merely exploit war crimes trials for propaganda purposes.

The way to lasting peace is to rectify the mistake of Bosnia's recognition as an independent state in 1992. It must be accepted that most Bosnians (the Croats and Serbs) do not want to live in a unified Bosnia. Current demarcation lines should be declared inviolable international borders. Secure within these borders, all groups would feel less threatened by their neighbours. This would pave the way for greater freedom of movement, the return of refugees and communication between Bosnia's three parts.

All parties should also agree to a general amnesty for crimes committed both in the recent conflict and during the Second World War. Only then can Bosnia's Croats, Muslims and Serbs focus on rebuilding their shattered lives rather than on settling old scores.


London EC3