Bosnia: Serb Military Spy Scandal

High Representative says Bosnian Serb espionage revelations are flagrant violation of Dayton Peace Accord.

Bosnia: Serb Military Spy Scandal

High Representative says Bosnian Serb espionage revelations are flagrant violation of Dayton Peace Accord.

Tuesday, 6 September, 2005

The Bosnian Serb military intelligence service has been implicated in spying on international organisations, federal officials and its own citizens, following a NATO raid earlier this month on Republika Srpska, RS, defence facilities.


Bosnia's internationally appointed High Representative, Paddy Ashdown, described the revelations, which surfaced in the media last week, as a "systematic, flagrant and in-depth" violation of the Dayton Peace Accord and a breach of Security Council resolutions.


Lord Ashdown was speaking in Brussels late last week where he was attending a regular meeting of the Peace Implementation Council, PIC, which comprises representatives of the big powers which oversee the Bosnian peace process.


The scandal was uncovered after NATO-led Stabilisation Force, SFOR, carried out surprise raids on various Bosnian Serb military bases on March 7.


Backed by the Office of the High Representative, OHR, SFOR and the United States embassy, the operation was aimed at uncovering information on the secret network that continues to protect and assist top war crimes suspects - especially the former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.


A western official told IWPR that the raids took Bosnian Serb intelligence officers by surprise, and that SFOR was able to seize large amounts of encrypted reports, computer files, plans and equipment.


SFOR officials refused to provide official details about the scandal until they had completed their analysis of the seized documents, which will take at least two more months.


But an initial analysis has provided evidence that almost half the activities of the Bosnian Serb army's 410th intelligence centre related to spying on its own citizens, especially opposition leaders and prominent public figures; and almost two-fifths were connected to snooping on the Federation's army, its government and other institutions, according to the western source.


The seized documentation also provides evidence of spying on SFOR, UN International Police Task Force, IPTF, and other western organisations, the source said, adding that agents reporting to the RS army intelligence department were closely linked to their counterparts in Serbia itself, and were probably involved in a number of illegal activities, ranging from petty crime to obstructing the Dayton Peace Accord.


The raid also discovered that the 410th intelligence centre possessed secret lists of Hague prosecution witnesses, some of whom were under surveillance while others had been warned not to collaborate with the tribunal's work, the source said.


Another IWPR source close the Bosnian Serb army confirmed that it had spied on the Federation and western organisations, "It was their job to do so, to analyse areas which posed as potential threats."


The also said that Hague witnesses, and anyone connected to the tribunal, were followed, saying this helped to establish who in the army was being sought by war crimes prosecutors.


The western official described the discovery as "an extremely serious violation of the Dayton Peace Accord. A part of the RS army is undoubtedly beyond civil control and heavily involved in abuse of power and crime".


Ashdown said the PIC had not yet issued a ruling on the scandal, but had empowered him and the OHR to decide what measures should be taken.


"In the decision-making process, I will take into account two aspects; the first relates to individual political responsibility and the second to the need for comprehensive and far-reaching reforms," Ashdown told reporters on March 28.


"We must put in place real civilian control over the intelligence services, which in my view must apply to the whole of Bosnia-Herzegovina, both the RS and the Federation."


Ashdown said what he called a "shocking abuse of power" would not go unpunished. He also supported the proposal of Adnan Terzic, Bosnia's state prime minister, for a state inspection body to be set up and empowered to monitor the work of the intelligence services in both Bosnian entities.


Bosnian Serb officials appeared taken aback by the revelations. Jelena Davidovic, a spokesperson for the RS president, Dragan Cavic, said she had received no official report from SFOR on the affair and that Cavic was not familiar with the details.


Although NATO officials will not give out details about the affair, well-placed sources say the alliance suspects the RS authorities were fully aware of the illegal operations carried out by their military intelligence service. They believe Banja Luka officials actively supported such activities.


Sead Numanovic is a journalist with the Sarajevo daily Dnevni Avaz.


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