Deploring the failure of the Croatian authorities to execute the arrest warrants issued by the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia against individuals indicted by the Tribunal, the Security Council this afternoon called for the execution of those arrest warrants without delay.
In a statement read out by its President, Alfredo Lopes Cabral (Guinea- Bissau), the Council also urged the Croatian authorities to act immediately to improve the security situation in the Krajina and Western Slavonia regions and to ensure that members of the military and police refrain from criminal and other unacceptable behaviour. The Croatian authorities were also urged to increase their efforts to protect the human rights of all persons present in Croatia, including the Serb population.
Welcoming the enactment today by Croatia of a new amnesty law, the Council emphasized that such a law must be implemented without delay and in a fair and equitable manner, with full respect for the rights of the individual. The Council noted that a comprehensive new amnesty law and its equitable application were also vital in preparing for elections in Eastern Slavonia and important factor in the successful completion of the mandate of the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES).
Expressing deep concern that residents of the Krajina and Western Slavonia continued to suffer from inadequate security, the Council deplored the reported involvement of Croatian uniformed military and police officials in acts of looting and harassment. It also noted with concern attacks and threats against those engaged in humanitarian relief activities and human rights monitoring in the area.
The Council also called on the Croatian Government to expand its investigations of crimes committed against the Serb population in 1995. It again called on that Government to rescind a September 1995 decision suspending certain constitutional provisions affecting the rights of national minorities, principally Serbs.
Although it recognized steps taken by the Government to reintegrate refugees and displaced persons into Croatia, the Council urged it to expand its programme and accelerate the return of all such persons without precondition or delay. It also urged the Government to expand its humanitarian relief efforts, especially as winter approaches.
The Council also commended the 23 August agreement between the Republic of Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and expressed its expectation that commitments contained in it would be implemented.
The full text of the statement, to be issued as document S/PRST/1996/39, reads as follows:
"The Security Council has considered the report of the Secretary-General of 23 August 1996 (S/1996/691), submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 1019 (1995) on Croatia.
"The Security Council notes progress in the humanitarian and human rights situation in some areas. The Council regrets, however, that many of its previous requests have not been complied with by the Government of Croatia. Numerous incidents threatening the population in the formerly Serb- controlled areas are a continuing source of concerns and could jeopardize the prospects for peaceful and substantial reintegration of refugees and displaced persons in Croatia.
"The Security Council commends the Agreement between the Republic of Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, signed in Belgrade on 23 August 1996, and expects the commitments contained therein to be implemented.
"The Security Council recognizes steps taken by the Government of Croatia to reintegrate refugees and displaced persons into Croatia, but urged the Government to expand its programme to accelerate the return of all such persons without preconditions or delay. The Council urges the Government of Croatia also to expand its humanitarian relief efforts, especially as winter approaches.
"The Security Council in the statement of its President of 3 July 1996 (S/PRST/1996/30) highlighted the need for adoption of a comprehensive amnesty law, in cooperation with the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES). Since the report of the Secretary-General of 23 August 1996 which found no substantial progress in this regard since passage of the Government of Croatia's amnesty law of 17 May 1996, the Republic of Croatia on 20 September 1996 enacted a new amnesty law. The Council welcomes this development as a step towards addressing the concerns outlined by the statement of the President on 3 July 1996 and emphasizes that such a law must be implemented without delay and in a fair and
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equitable manner, with full respect for the rights of the individual. The Council will follow such implementation closely. The Council notes that a comprehensive new amnesty law and its equitable applications are also vital elements in preparing for elections in Eastern Slavonia and important factors in the successful completion of the UNTAES mandate.
"Despite some positive developments, the Security Council is deeply concerned that residents of the Krajina and Western Slavonia continue to suffer from inadequate security, including the danger of theft or assault at any time. The Council also notes with concern attacks and threats against those engaged in humanitarian relief activities and human rights monitoring in the area. In particular, it deplores the reported involvement of Croatian uniformed military and police officials in acts of looting and harassment.
"The Security Council urges the Croatian authorities to act immediately to improve the security situation in those regions. It urges that Croatian officials ensure that members of the military and police refrain from criminal and other unacceptable behaviour, and increase their efforts to protect the human rights of all persons present in Croatia, including the Serb population.
"The Security Council welcomes the recommendations made by the Secretary-General in his report for specific action which must be taken to improve the human rights situation in the Republic of Croatia, inter alia, in the framework of the Basic Agreement on the Region of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (S/1995/951), annex), as part of the peace process towards a comprehensive political settlement in the region. In this context, the Council calls upon the Government of Croatia to expand investigations of crimes committed against the Serb population in 1995. The Council again calls upon the Government of Croatia to rescind its decision of September 1995 suspending certain constitutional provisions affecting the rights of national minorities, principally Serbs.
"The Security Council reminds the Government of Croatia of its obligation to cooperate with the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and, in particular, to execute the arrest warrants issued by the Tribunal regarding individuals under Croatian jurisdiction, including prominent accused persons known or believed to be in areas under its control, and to transfer to the Tribunal all indicted persons. In this context, the Security Council deplores the failure to date of the Republic of Croatia to execute the arrest warrants issued by the Tribunal against individual indicted by the Tribunal, in particular the Bosnian Croats referred to in the letter of 16 September 1996 from the President of the Tribunal to the President of the Council (S/1996/763), and calls for the execution of those arrest warrants without delay.
"The Security Council recalls that no individual should be arrested and detained on the territory of the former Yugoslavia for serious violations of
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international humanitarian law until and unless the International Tribunal has reviewed the case and agreed that the warrant, order, or indictment meets international legal standards.
"The Security Council will remain seized of the matter and requests that the Secretary-General continue to report on the situation, in any case no later than 10 December 1996."
The meeting, which was called to order at 3:57 p.m., was adjourned at 4:07 p.m.
According to the Secretary-General's report on the human rights situation in Croatia (document S/1996/691), the Croatian Government has not taken adequate measures to mitigate the climate of lawlessness that is causing great fear among residents of the former Sectors North, South and West. Fewer than a quarter of the more than 9,000 Croatian Serbs authorized to return to their homes in the area have done so, and many returnees have been unable to regain possession of their homes.
The Secretary-General states that nearly 200,000 Croatian Serbs are estimated to have fled to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) and Bosnia and Herzegovina following Croatia's military operations during the summer of 1995. Of those who have received official authorization to return, the Croatian Office for Displaced Persons and Refugees estimates that 61 per cent are 60 years of age or older.
Nearly 10,000 Croatian Serbs remained in the area following last year's "Operation Storm", most of whom are also elderly, the report states. The programme of humanitarian assistance directed at that population appears effective, but there are concerns that the onset of winter will place them at risk, since many of their children and other relatives are refugees in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and elsewhere.
International organizations have encouraged the return of the elderly local Serbs' younger relatives, the report states. However, a potential obstacle to the return of young adult males is the requirement that they first undergo interrogation by Croatian authorities, concerning their activities on behalf of the so-called "Republic of Serb Krajina", the Secretary-General states. He expresses concern at the Government's reluctance to enact a broad amnesty for former soldiers of the so-called "Republic of Serb Krajina", as well as its failure to reinstate suspended constitutional guarantees for the protection and promotion of minority rights.
According to the report, tens of thousands of Croats are settling in the region and transforming its ethnic composition from being predominantly Serb
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to one that is largely Croat. As of 10 June, a total of 36,766 displaced persons from Croatia had been registered as returnees in former Sectors North, South and West, while some 14,000 refugees had also received temporary accommodation there. More Croat refugees are moving into the area every day.
The use of properties abandoned by Croatian Serbs during last summer's exodus has been one of the most contentious issues over the past several months, the report states. According to the Law on Temporary Take-Over and Administration of Property, adopted by the Government in late 1995, abandoned homes may be given over temporarily to refugees and displaced persons. Numerous reports by returning Croatian Serbs indicate they have been unable to regain possession of their homes from their temporary occupants.
International and local observers have received dozens of reports of looting and harassment of ethnic Serbs this summer by civilians and uniformed military personnel, the report states. In several incidents, explosives have been placed on the properties of the remaining local Serb population. Attacks and threats against non-governmental organizations engaged in human rights and humanitarian relief have also been recorded.
International and local observers believe that principal responsibility for the continuing insecurity lies with the local police, who are either unable or unwilling to take effective action, the report states. While many police officers conduct their work in a professional manner, a substantial minority does not.
Some public statements by the Government have not been encouraging, the Secretary-General states. In a speech before the Croatian World Congress at Brioni on 7 July, President Tudjman said that most Croatian Serbs had left because they had wished to rule in Croatia and that Croatia could not agree to their return at present. Another statement was made at Knin on 5 August, which was proclaimed a national holiday known as "Homeland Thanksgiving Day" in commemoration of the anniversary of the conclusion of "Operation Storm". In that speech, President Tudjman declared that "we returned Zvonomir's city, the Croatian city of Knin, to the lap of the Croatian motherland, clean as it was in Zvonomir's time".
In his report, the Secretary-General also updates previous reports on the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed against the Serb population during Croatian Army's summer 1995 "Operation Storm". Of 5,000 cases of arson reported by international observers in the former Sectors, for example, a government report suggests that proceedings have been instituted against only 10 persons.
Recent information from the Government and other sources indicates that eight persons tried for the killings of 16 elderly Serbs in August and September 1995 have been acquitted, the report states. Some of the
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defendants, who were active members of the Croatian armed forces when the crimes were committed, learned later they had been issued military discharge papers backdated to precede the murders.
While stating that the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has received cooperation from the Croatian police authorities, the Secretary- General adds that Croatian authorities had not executed arrest warrants relating to prominent accused persons known or believed to be in areas under their control. It was reported, for example, that Dario Kordic, a former top officer in the Croatian Defence Forces of the so-called "Republic of Herzeg-Bosna" in Bosnia and Herzegovina, who has been indicted for alleged involvement in the killing of Bosniak civilians in 1993, maintains a home in Zagreb which he visits regularly. In July, he attended a concert in Medjugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina, where he sat only a few seats away from the President of Croatia.
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