Deeply concerned at the failure of the Croatian Government to take sufficient measures to safeguard the rights, safety and well-being of its local Serb population, the Security Council this afternoon said the Government must undertake sustained efforts to protect the rights of the Croatian Serbs and provide for their safeguarding in the country's legal and constitutional framework.
Acting through a statement read out by its President, Alain Dejammet (France), the Council strongly deplored such failure to act, expressing deep concern at the Government's failure to promote conditions, including satisfactory procedures, to facilitate the return of all Croatian Serbs who wished to do so.
In addition, the Council called on the Croatian Government, with due respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to use its influence with the Bosnian Croat leadership to ensure their cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. It noted the Government's cooperation with the Tribunal to date and reminded it of its obligation to execute arrest warrants in respect of any person in its territory indicted by the Tribunal.
The Council noted that the Croatian Government has begun to cooperate with international human rights mechanisms and that it has considered various initiatives for the protection of minority rights. However, it reminded the Government that its obligation to promote such rights could not be conditional upon other factors, including political negotiations with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
The full text of the statement, to be issued as document S/PRST/1996/29, reads as follows:
"The Security Council has considered the further report of the Secretary-General of 21 June 1996 (S/1996/456) submitted pursuant to its resolution 1019 (1995) on Croatia.
"The Security Council is deeply concerned at the failure by the Croatian Government to take sufficient measures to safeguard the rights of the local Serb population and to ensure their safety and well-being. The Council is also deeply concerned at the Croatian Government's failure to promote conditions, including satisfactory procedures, facilitating the return of all Croatian Serbs who wish to do so. The Council strongly deplores such failure to act.
"The Security Council notes that the Croatian Government has begun to cooperate with international human rights mechanisms, and that it has considered various initiatives for the protection of minority rights. Nevertheless the Council underlines that the Croatian Government must undertake determined and sustained efforts to ensure respect for and protection of the rights of Croatian Serbs and to provide for their safeguarding in the legal and constitutional framework of the Republic of Croatia, including by the reactivation of the relevant articles of its Constitutional Law. The Council reminds the Croatian Government that its obligation to promote respect for and protection of such rights cannot be made conditional upon other factors, including upon political negotiations with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
"The Security Council expects the Croatian Government to take steps forthwith to comply with the demands contained in its resolution 1019 (1995) and in its statement of 8 January 1996 (S/PRST/1996/2), 23 February 1996 (S/PRST/1996/8) and 22 May 1996 (S/PRST/1996/26).
"The Security Council reiterates that all States must cooperate fully with the International Tribunal and its organs established pursuant to its resolution 827 (1993). It notes the cooperation by the Croatian Government with the International Tribunal to date, and reminds the Croatian Government of its obligation to execute arrest warrants in respect of any person in its territory indicated by the Tribunal. The Council calls upon the Croatian Government, with due respect to the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to use its influence with the Bosnian Croat leadership to ensure their cooperation with the Tribunal.
"The Security Council will continue to follow this issue closely. It requests the Secretary-General to keep it regularly informed on measures undertaken by the Croatian Government in the light of this statement, and to report in any case no later than 1 September 1996."
The meeting, which began at 12:56 p.m., was adjourned at 1:04 p.m.
Security Council - 3 - Press Release SC/6239 3677th Meeting (PM) 3 July 1996
In considering this matter the Council had before it a report of the Secretary-General on the human rights situation in Croatia (document S/1996/456). In it, he calls attention to an absence of concrete initiatives by the Croatian Government to encourage the return of Croatian Serb refugees to their homes, suggesting continuing hostility to their presence.
Measures taken thus far to provide security to residents of the former United Nations Protected Areas (UNPAs) in Western Slavonia and the Krajina region -- known as Sectors West, North and South -- have been insufficient, the report states. The prevailing lawlessness, particularly in the area around Knin, clearly demands that additional steps be taken and especially that the professional police presence be strengthened. The incidence of killings and arson in the region, while substantially lower than acts of physical intimidation and looting, continues to be a cause for concern.
The Secretary-General draws attention to Council resolutions 1009 (1995) and 1019 (1995), adopted following military operations of May and August 1995 by which the Government of Croatia regained control of formerly Serb- controlled areas of its territory in Western Slavonia and Krajina. By those texts, the Council demanded that the Government respect fully the rights of the local Serb population, including the right to remain, leave or return in safety, take urgent measures to put an end to all violations of international humanitarian law and human rights in the areas, and investigate all reports of such violations so that those responsible could be judged and punished.
The response to the basic needs of Croatian Serbs by government offices in the former Sectors continues to be ineffective and sometimes hostile, the Secretary-General states. Important matters, such as the allocation of property and provision of identity documents, are frequently not handled consistently or in accordance with legal procedures. In addition, Croatia has now embarked on a major programme to return displaced Croats to the former Sectors, and many thousands of Croat refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina are also being housed in the region. "On the other hands, there is no determined effort to facilitate the return of Croatian Serb refugees."
In several reported cases, Croatian Serbs attempting to return to their homes have met with resistance from persons occupying them, the Secretary- General states. Sporadic reports have also been received of forcible evictions of Serbs by armed Croats. The rapid repopulation of the area, not only by displaced Croats but also by Croat refugees from elsewhere, even if temporary in some cases, is likely to create major obstacles to the return of Croatian Serbs, unless the Government implements vigorous policy measures to safeguard their rights.
Security Council - 4 - Press Release SC/6239 3677th Meeting (PM) 3 July 1996
The Secretary-General says the continued failure by the Croatian Government to enact a broad amnesty for former soldiers of the so-called "Republic of Serb Krajina" also militates against the large-scale return of Croatian Serbs. A similar effect is created by the continued suspension of special constitutional provisions for the protection and promotion of minority rights in Croatia.
The Government should be credited for its generally cooperative attitude with international human rights mechanisms and for its consideration of various initiatives for the protection of minority rights, the report states. "Such protection cannot, however, be linked to political negotiations with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, as it arises from Croatia's obligations under various international legal instruments."
* *** *