Regional Report: US Sanctions Alarm Bosnians
American president George Bush issued an executive order on May 28 to freeze the US assets 150 war crimes suspects, their aids, and other people and organisations obstructing the Dayton peace accords. The order also banned US citizens from conducting business with anyone on the list.
Of the 150 people and organisations named, 97 are from Bosnia-Herzegovina and around 70 have been indicted by the tribunal. Although most of the indictees are in Hague custody, 10 are still at large.
Washington said it issued the blacklist in an effort to promote regional stability and ensure compliance with the Dayton Agreement, UN Security Council resolution 1244 on Kosovo, the 2001 Ohrid Agreement on Macedonia, and the work of the tribunal.
Many of the names on the list, such as Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, were not surprising. However, it also includes other members of the Karadzic family - such as the former Bosnian Serb president's son, Sasa, his daughter, Sonja, and his wife, Ljiljana Zelen - and his friends and business associates.
Also included are several war crimes suspects believed to be under investigation by the tribunal. Amongst them are Valentin Coric, wartime commander of the Croatian Defence Council, HVO, whom the tribunal is reportedly investigating for his role in the Ahmici killings, and Croatian army officer Ljubo Cesic-Rojs, who Zagreb intelligence sources say had role in the murder of four Republika Srpska, RS, soldiers in 1995.
Others named in the list are Ante Jelavic, a former member of the Bosnian presidency and ex-head of the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, who had previously been banned from holding public office by Bosnia’s High Representative, Paddy Ashdown; Hasan Cengic, dismissed as Bosnia's defence minister over alleged arms smuggling and ties with Iran; Momcilo Mandic, a Bosnian Serb businessman believed to be supporting Karadzic and recently arrested in Belgrade on unspecified charges; and the Ravna Gora Chetnik Movement, a Bijeljina-based organisation that promotes the creation of a Greater Serbia.
The reactions of some of those named in the presidential order have ranged from fury to disbelief.
Former Bosnian interior minister Bakir Alispahic, said his inclusion was "the greatest post-war evil to be committed against the Bosniaks". He added that he hoped the Bosnian government would lodge a protest with the US embassy.
Djoja Arsenovic, a Serbian Democratic Party, SDS, deputy in the RS parliament, said he didn't care that he was included in the list, while Ljubo Cesic-Rojs, now an HDZ representative in the Croatian assembly, said he could not believe that he had been named in the order.
The list shocked the Bosnian public, because it was both so wide-ranging and unexpected. The European Union had announced that it was going to release a list of 25 people who were to be banned from entering EU countries for obstructing the Dayton accords, but the massive US list came as a surprise.
Many welcomed the American president’s order and said it would help to restore confidence in the US government in the wake of Washington’s insistence that Sarajevo sign an agreement indemnifying American troops from extradition to the International Criminal Court, ICC.
The Office of the High Representative in Sarajevo praised the American blacklist, noting that the new measures help form a strong coalition for tackling organised crime. "The criminals have held Bosnia-Herzegovina hostage for far too long. The international community is now taking coordinated action in fighting these people," said High
Representative Paddy Ashdown.
However, not surprisingly, Bosnia's various nationalist political parties strongly condemned the presidential order.
The HDZ of Bosnia-Herzegovina issued a statement describing the decision as "humiliating" and said that it was inappropriate for the US to group people who honoured the Dayton accords and war crimes suspects on the same list. The Party of Democratic Action, SDA, said much the same.
The SDS, which was founded by Radovan Karadzic, did not respond to the list. However, RS prime minister, Dragan Mikerevic said Washington's move does not represent America's attitude towards the Serb entity, but rather its attitude towards specific individuals.
Amra Kebo is a commentator for the Sarajevo daily Oslobodjenje.