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CNAB welcomes Secretary Clinton’s planned Balkans trip

Dear Madam Secretary Clinton,

The Congress of North American Bosniaks (CNAB), an umbrella organization representing the interests of American and Canadian Bosniaks, welcomes the news of your planned visit to the Balkans. It signals to all  that peace and stability in the region are still of vital interest to the United States. We believe that your visit is extremely timely, after the  general elections in Bosnia, when its citizens will decide who will be tasked with addressing the issues they are most concerned with. A few months ago, you made a statement that the “job in Bosnia is not done”. We believe that the time is now to finally deliver on the promise of peace and stability that Bosnian citizens deserve.

The most glaring need and obstacle to Bosnia’s long term peace, progress, and stability are the constitutional reforms. Dayton Agreement stopped the war but has in the recent years become a hindrance to Bosnia’s path to Europe. Therefore, constitutional reforms must address all aspects of the Dayton agreement which do not help it meet the necessary conditions to join the EU. We believe that majority of Bosnia’s citizens wish to see a country that will have the adequate laws and institutions which will enable it to prosper economically and be fully integrated into the European Union. Constitutional reforms should guarantee equal rights for all of its citizens, but also eliminate the undemocratic process of ethnic voting that holds the central government hostage from implementing any reforms that would lead towards euro-Atlantic integration. The Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina Constitution can serve as a good starting point. Even Bosnia’s educational system is fragmented along the ethnic lines and should be reformed to make sure the future generation of Bosnians will value equality, diversity and tolerance. There is also an often forgotten question of refugees who never returned to their homes. We believe that the new Bosnian government should pass laws to promote return of all refugees, including financing the cost of return.

From a security standpoint, the top priority needs to be the necessary reforms for eventual membership in NATO which would significantly weaken both internal and external threats to Bosnian sovereignty. It should also be noted that Bosnia has shown partnership and willingness to stand by the United States in its hours of need for cooperation and support of its strategic interests.

The biggest threat to long-term peace and stability is the worrying trend of current threats of referendum and secession by Republika Srpska’s (RS) politicians and their denial of war crimes committed by Serbian and Bosnian Serb forces during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. There seems to be no fear of consequences for any actions by RS politicians from the Office of the High Representative (OHR), whose authority has been severely undermined by the lack of international reaction to these threats. Madam Secretary, we ask that you unequivocally condemn all those who openly deny genocide and war crimes. Without justice and accountability, there can be no reconciliation.

CNAB is also deeply concerned over the continued human and religious rights violations of the state of Serbia against its minority ethnic group, Bosniaks in the Sandzak region. The Serbian government continues to undermine the rights of the Bosniak minority by meddling in internal religious affairs, denying them their political, cultural and other rights in Serbia. Serbian government continues to illegally confiscate property owned by the Bosniak Islamic Community in Serbia and is using the fear and intimidation against local minority groups. This is evidenced by an increased presence of police forces in the area with Bosniak majority population and recent military exercise. CNAB is concerned that continued encroachments by the Serbian government on human rights will increase tensions which have a potential to escalate and threaten the stability of the entire region. We call for immediate stop of all human rights violations and restore the independence of Bosniak religious and cultural institutions in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Mr. Haris Alibašić, MPA
President of the CNAB Board of Directors

Note: The letter was originally sent on October 1st, 2010.