Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) president Ante Jelavić announced this week that Croats will leave the Muslim-Croat Federation, a move that international organizations warn would be a violation of the Dayton Peace Accords.
"From today, the Federation is a Bosniak entity without Croats," Jelavić told about 8000 people at a rally in Busovača Wednesday. "It is about time that we clearly say that we can no longer remain in this process of leaving Croats out."
The Busovača rally was the culmination of what the HDZ sees as the extermination of Bosnian Croats. The party, which lost control in both Federation and Bosnian government bodies in November's elections, has boycotted all government sessions, saying that Croats have no say in the new Alliance for Changes coalition governments. The international community has implored the party to accept the election results and participate in the institutions that they are legally bound by Dayton to participate in, but the party has turned a deaf ear.
Monday's International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia's (ICTY) sentencing of two Bosnian Croats to decades of jail time for war crimes during the 1993-94 Muslim-Croat war (see below) seemed to be the last straw in what the HDZ qualifies as a long string of injustices against the Croats. The thousands of people in Busovača were protesting the sentences and even the guilty verdicts. HDZ officials turning out for the rally included party president Jelavić, who is also the Croat Presidency member in BiH. He said the verdicts were a blow to all Croats.
Jelavić declared that the self-styled Croat National Assembly would meet March 3 in Mostar and give a "historical decision" on the future of Bosnian Croats. Since Croats are not allowed under Dayton to have their own, separate Croat decision-making institutions, the international community has been warning the party all week that actions will be taken if HDZ leaders complement their inflammatory rhetoric with action. High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch, whose office oversees the civilian implementation of the Dayton Accords, announced in a press statement Friday that anyone "found to be engaged in illegal or anti-Dayton activities, including the establishment and maintenance of parallel structures, will be liable to sanction in accordance with my mandate."
Office of the High Representative (OHR) spokesperson Oleg Milišić was quoted as saying the possible creation of a third Croat entity in BiH would be unconstitutional and a clear violation of Dayton.
Another spokesperson, Chris Bird, called Jelavic's remarks at the rally "Jelavić's usual extremist nonsense," and said that if Croats are not represented in Federation or BiH governments, that is because the HDZ has been trying to block the government formation process on all levels since the November elections.
There has been much press speculation on what Petritsch will do, ranging from ordering SFOR to arrest HDZ leaders immediately following Saturday's assembly to banning the HDZ from Bosnian politics.
ICTY sentences Kordić, Čerkez to 40 years
On February 26 Monday, the ICTY sentenced Bosnian Croats Dario Kordić and Mario Čerkez to 25 and 15 years, respectively, for their leading roles in war crimes committed against civilians during the Muslim-Croat war. Kordić, the former vice-president of the wartime Croat statelet Herceg-Bosna, was found guilty of ordering the infamous Ahmići massacre in April 1993, when Croat forces in the central Bosnian village executed more than 100 Muslim civilians before burning their houses.
BH-TV was on the scene in central Bosnia the day the verdicts came out, and compared Croats' reactions with those of Muslims. One man standing in front of the destroyed mosque in Ahmići said the sentences were not long enough to pay for what the men did in the town. Every Croat interviewed expressed bitterness at the sentences and asked when those who committed crimes against the Bosnian Croats would be tried and sentenced.
Ante Jelavić sent an open letter to both Kordić and Čerkez, which said The Hague declared they and other area Croats "guilty only because you managed to defend yourselves from the attacks of aggressors and remain on your ancient homeland." He said the ICTY had also managed to place collective guilt on all Croats with this verdict.
Koštunica to visit Banja Luka
Yugoslav President Vojislav Koštunica will be in Banja Luka to sign a parallel relations agreement with Republika Srpska (RS) authorities March 5. The agreement will establish concrete financial ties and will recognize dual citizenship, among other things. The Party of Democratic Action (SDA) stated that this agreement would be little more than an agreement between Serbs on both sides of the Drina River, because no representatives of any other RS ethnic groups have been involved in the negotiations. The party also expressed shock at Wolfgang Petritsch's Belgrade visit to hold talks with RS and Yugoslav authorities about the agreement without any BiH-level officials.
Beth Kampschror, 5 March 2001
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