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CNAB Letter to Miroslav Lajcak, Re Police Reform in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Mr. Miroslav Lajcak
High Representative and EU Special Representative

Honorable High Representative Lajcak,

I am writing to you on behalf of the Congress of North American Bosniaks which represents more than 350,000 Bosniaks in the United States and Canada. We are gravely concerned about the lack of progress in reform of the Police in Bosnia and Herzegovina and with your recent proposal for the reform of Police in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The EU has made police reforms and the cooperation in the prosecution of war crimes the key conditions for Bosnia to seal an association agreement which is the first step on the path toward full EU membership. Among the EU principles for Police reforms are state-level legislation, a federal budget and the establishment of new police regions to create a more functional force. We are requesting that these principals remain in the proposal. Many Bosniaks are still unable to return to their homes since the RS Police remain a body consisting of a single nationality that discriminates against Bosniaks.

Bosnia has a unified armed forces but it does not have a unified police. Bosnia must have a unified Police force in order to avoid future conflicts. Our body rejects any proposal that would allow the continuation of the RS Police in its current form, structure, and hierarchy.

On February 26, 2007, International Court of Justice’s verdict found that the wartime institutions of the political entity Republika Srpska were responsible for genocide in Srebrenica and for other atrocities. This verdict clearly indicated the responsibility of the RS Police for human rights violations and terrorism against civilians during the war against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

This in itself is reason enough to dismantle the criminal Police force that operates within the RS.

The 31st Report of the High Representative for Implementation of the Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Secretary-General of the United Nations states the following:

  • In December 2006, the Directorate for Police Restructuring Implementation (“Directorate”) completed its 36-page final report, “Proposed Plan for the Implementation of the Reform of Police Structures in Bosnia And Herzegovina,” as mandated by the October 2005 Agreement on Restructuring of Police Structures (Political Agreement).
  • There were numerous delays, stemming largely from the RS government’s obstruction of and objections to the legitimacy of the process, notwithstanding the fact that the RS National Assembly had adopted the Political Agreement and Serb ministers in the CoM had supported the formation of the Directorate.
  • As a result of these delays and obstructions, the report was submitted three months after the deadline foreseen in the October 2005 Political Agreement and minus some of the elements specified by that agreement. In particular, it does not include draft legal acts or rulebooks, a timetable for the overall implementation period, or a map of police regions.
  • The proposed policing system provides for an organizationally integrated structure with decentralized police operations and decision-making. The consolidation of administrative services (human resources, finance, procurement, IT/communications), which are currently duplicated in each of the existing fifteen police forces, is perhaps the most far-reaching aspect of the report. The new system also envisages a single forensics centre and police academy. The local policing level would operate with fairly extensive autonomy, although the future Director of Police and the Directorate for Police Coordination would provide an operational hierarchy.
  • The report also offers concrete solutions designed to implement the three guiding principles set by the European Union:
  1. All legislative and budgetary competencies for all police matters must be vested at the state level.
  2. No political interference with operational policing.
  3. Functional local police areas must be determined by technical policing criteria, where operational command is exercised at the local level.
  • As for the first principle, the report clearly establishes that the state should be vested with exclusive legislative competency for all police matters and that other levels of government cannot legislate on police matters. The report also envisages a single police budget to be adopted by the BiH Parliamentary Assembly. Regarding the second principle, the report provides for numerous oversight mechanisms designed to keep politics out of policing, mainly through parliamentary watchdogs and institutions such as the Independent Board and Public Complaints Office. On the third principle, the report enumerates specific technical guidelines and criteria for forming local policing areas, but it does not contain a map suggesting what they should be.

In your speech on September 6, 2007 to the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina, you made the following statement “isolation or integration – at this moment that is your choice and your responsibility.” By following the basic principles of Police reform this can be achieved. It is more than evident that one side is obstructing all the efforts for unified Police Force, the RS with Milorad Dodik. You have also repeated the three EU principles:

  • The first EU principle requires that all legislative and budgetary competencies for all police matters be vested at the State Level. This means, among other things, that only this body, the BiH Parliamentary Assembly, can adopt legislation and budgets related to police matters. It means that all police bodies in the future will be legally defined as organizations of the BiH state.
  • The second principle – that there should be no political interference in the operational work of the police – means exactly what it says: there will be oversight at the policy level, but operational independence must be guaranteed. Getting politics out of the daily work of the police is something that we know the overwhelming majority of BIH citizens agree on.
  • The third principle – that functional local police areas must be determined by technical policing criteria, where operational command is exercised at the local level is the best way to bring policing to the community that it serves.

Let these principles lead you to a just and fair solution to the Police reform, which would mean a unified Police with a single insignia that truly represents Bosnia and Herzegovina and its citizens. Anything else would be going against the EU principle and the OHR’s own reports to the UN and previously made agreements. Do not reward Bosnian Serb politicians from RS for their obstructionism. Reward Bosnian citizens with a just solution.

Emir Ramic
President of the Governing Board of CNAB