To the Honorable Members of the Bosnian Caucus in the United States Congress:
On behalf of the Congress of North American Bosniaks, I am writing to express my concern regarding the current political stalemate in Bosnia and Herzegovina. As an organization, we represent more than 300,000 proud Americans of Bosniak descent many of whom live in your districts. The majority of us came to this country as refugees, as a result of the Serbian war of aggression on Bosnia and Herzegovina following Bosnia’s declaration of independence in 1992. After the fall of communist Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Herzegovina was recognized by the United States and the international community following a certified referendum vote as a democratic, sovereign nation based on its historical borders, with equal rights for all of its citizens. Unfortunately, the vulnerable young democracy fell victim to the politics of hatred organized by the brutal Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic and his proxies Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic and other Serb extremists and war criminals operating in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Consequently, hundreds of thousands died as victims of the Bosnian genocide that began exactly 19 years ago in April of 1992. More than 15,000 civilians perished in Sarajevo alone, thousands of women systematically raped across the country, and more than 8,000 people were slaughtered by Serb forces in a span of just a few days during the Srebrenica genocide.
With the memories of war still fresh, Bosnians are forever grateful to the United States and the Clinton administration for stepping in at a time when few had the courage or political will to help end the war with military intervention and negotiate an agreement in Dayton in 1996. As a result of the war, millions were displaced all over the world and have since struggled to find the normalcy needed to return to their previous homes. This includes more than 300,000 Bosnians who now reside in their new homeland of United States but who still deeply care about the country of their birth and the relatives who live there.
The main challenge to post-Dayton Bosnia is the obvious lack of democratic conditions and human rights, particularly in the Republika Srpska entity and the fear of a return to violence. These fears are legitimate given the return of ultra-nationalist rhetoric by the leading Serb politicians in Bosnia, most notably Milorad Dodik, who continues to defy the international community and obstruct the roadmap for Bosnia and Herzegovina for euro-Atlantic integration, memberships into the European Union and NATO. These actions are a result of severe deficiencies in the implementation of the Dayton accords which ended the war. Milorad Dodik and his supporters choose to defy and ignore the Office of the High Representative which was established as a European regulatory body in the Dayton accords, and purposely use extremist nationalist politics to paralyze the country in order to further the same agenda and roadmap that were drawn up by Milosevic and Karadzic.
The Serbian extremist agenda included and still contains the following summary of objectives: 1) conduct genocide and ethnic cleansing of 49% of territory of Bosnia, and 2) secession and annexation of those territories by Serbia. They accomplished the first objective through violence and obstruction of the process for return of refugees through intimidation and hateful rhetoric. The second objective is now being led by Milorad Dodik by undermining Bosnian sovereignty, obstructing the process for peaceful reconciliation, and refusing to participate in meaningful reforms that would unite the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina regardless of ethnic or religious affiliation. Their most recent provocative act is the passing of the so called “referendum” act by the RS parliament which blatantly refuses to recognize the authority of the Bosnian courts. High Representative Valentin Inzko proclaimed this act to be illegal according to the Dayton agreement and international law. The United States and its NATO and European allies should not allow Bosnia to be taken down a perilous road once again with actions of nationalist extremists.
We urge the United States government to take a significantly more active role and not allow hatred and injustice to prevail. The policies of appeasement have proven to be historically detrimental and we cannot afford to let it happen again. The majority of Bosnian citizens just want the same things that the American people already have: to live peacefully in a democratic society with equal rights for all regardless of ethnic background or religion, to prosper economically through integration in Europe and the global economy, and to ensure long-term peace and stability through EU and NATO membership. According to the State Department, these goals remain of key strategic interest to the United States, but not enough is being done tactically to facilitate progress.
Contrary to what Milorad Dodik and other extremists want us to believe, reaching these goals is not an impossible task. We believe these are universal goals that can be accomplished through a process facilitated by the international community, most notably active engagement of the United States and the European Union. There are several key steps that need to be taken:
1. Organize an international conference for constitutional and democratic reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina (similar to the original Dayton conference); This idea was also recently proposed by Congressman Michael Turner (R-OH),
a. Reforms should focus on voting principles based on equal rights of all citizens and eliminate voting based on ethnic lines that undermine the democratic institutions ,
2. Establish a clear roadmap and institutions for real enforcement of reforms and steps towards euro-Atlantic integration,
3. Ensure stability and security and facilitate the return of refugees to avoid ethnically divided territories.
As respected members of the Congress and proven friends of the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina through your membership in the Bosnian caucus, we ask you to take up this cause and immediately sponsor an effort to address the political stalemate in Bosnia and Herzegovina, thus ensuring hope for long-term viability, peace and stability for all of its citizens.
We thank you in advance and offer our assistance as representatives of the Bosnian American community. We would be happy to meet with you to discuss the proposals above in more detail.
Haris Alibasic, MPA
President of the CNAB Board of Directors