SECURITY COUNCIL CALLS ON CROATIAN GOVERNMENT TO DEMONSTRATE COMMITMENT TO OBLIGATIONS THROUGH ACTIONS

6 March 1998
SC/6484

SECURITY COUNCIL CALLS ON CROATIAN GOVERNMENT TO DEMONSTRATE COMMITMENT TO OBLIGATIONS THROUGH ACTIONS

6 March 1998

Press ReleaseSC/6484

SECURITY COUNCIL CALLS ON CROATIAN GOVERNMENT TO DEMONSTRATE COMMITMENT TO OBLIGATIONS THROUGH ACTIONS

19980306 Presidential Statement Calls For Prompt, Unequivocal Steps To Ensure Safety, Security and Rights of All Croatian Citizens

The Security Council this afternoon called upon the Croatian Government to reaffirm its commitment to fulfilling its obligations under the Basic Agreement on the Region of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium and other agreements in full. Expressing concern at the Government's lack of compliance with those obligations relating to the return of refugees and displaced persons, it called on it to demonstrate that commitment in actions, including through progress on national reconciliation at every level.

Through a statement read out by its President, Foreign Minister Momodou Lamin Sedat Jobe of Gambia, the Council called upon the Croatian Government to take prompt and unequivocal steps to ensure the safety, security and rights of all Croatian citizens and to build confidence among the Serb community throughout Croatia, including by providing promised funding for the Joint Council of Municipalities. These should include measures to allow local Serbs to remain in the region, to facilitate the return of refugees and displaced persons, and to address underlying practical and economic issues which inhibit return.

Although the overall security situation in the Danube region remains relatively stable, the Council expressed particular concern about the increasing incidence of harassment and intimidation of the local Serb community and at the Government's failure to apply to process of national reconciliation effectively at the local level. Together with recent statements by the authorities, that "worrying situation" cast doubt on the Republic's commitment to include ethnic Serbs and persons from other minorities as full and equal members of Croatian society.

The Council called upon the Government to take a wide range of actions, including the following: establishing clear procedures for the documentation of refugees from Croatia; issuing an equitable plan for nation-wide two-way returns; implementing fully and fairly its legislation on amnesty; acting promptly to pass equitable property and tenancy rights legislation to encourage returns and stimulate additional international reconstruction

assistance; ensuring fair employment benefit practices and equal economic opportunity; and ensuring the non-discriminatory application of the rule of law.

While recognizing that the performance of the Croatian police has been generally satisfactory since the end of the mandate of the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES), the Council also noted that public confidence in the police is low. It called upon the Government to take measures to improve public confidence in the police as part of a wider programme to prevent ethnically motivated crime and ensure the protection and equal treatment of all Croatian citizens, regardless of ethnicity.

The Council stressed that, following the termination of UNTAES, responsibility for the full reintegration of the Danube region lies with the Croatian Government. The United Nations would continue to work closely with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in monitoring the situation and reminding the Croatian Government of its obligations.

The meeting, which was called to order at 4:56 p.m., was adjourned at 5:05 p.m.

Presidential Statement

The full text of the statement, to be issues as document S/PRST/1998/6, reads as follows:

"The Security Council expresses its concern at the Croatian Government's lack of compliance with obligations assumed under the Basic Agreement on the Region of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (S/1995/951), the Croatian Government's letter of 13 January 1997 (S/1997/27, Annex) and the agreement of 23 April 1997 between the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Croatian Government concerning the return of refugees and displaced persons. The Council notes that the overall security situation in the Danube region remains relatively stable, but is particularly concerned about increasing incidence of harassment and intimidation of the local Serb community in the region and the failure of the Croatian Government to apply the process of national reconciliation in an effective way at the local level. This worrying situation, together with recent statements by the Croatian authorities, cast doubt upon the Republic of Croatia's commitment to include ethnic Serbs and persons from other minorities as full and equal members of Croatian society.

"The Security Council, recalling the statement by its President of 13 February 1998 (S/PRST/1998/3) and having noted the letter from the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Croatia of 5 March 1998 (S/1998/197), calls

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upon the Croatian Government publicly to reaffirm and by its actions to demonstrate its commitment to fulfilling its obligations under the Basic Agreement and other agreements in full, including through progress on national reconciliation at every level. In particular, the Council calls upon the Croatian Government to take prompt and unequivocal steps to ensure the safety, security and rights of all Croatian citizens and to build confidence among the Serb community throughout Croatia, including by providing promised funding for the Joint Council of Municipalities. These steps should include measures to create the conditions to allow local Serbs to remain in the region, to facilitate the return of refugees and displaced persons and to address underlying practical and economic issues which inhibit returns. The Council calls upon the Croatian Government to: establish clear procedures for the documentation of refugees from Croatia; issue an equitable plan for nationwide two-way returns; implement fully and fairly its legislation on amnesty; act promptly to pass equitable property and tenancy rights legislation which would encourage returns and stimulate additional international reconstruction assistance; ensure fair employment benefit practices and equal economic opportunity; and ensure the non-discriminatory application of the rule of law.

"The Security Council recognizes that, since the end of the UNTAES mandate, the performance of the Croatian police has been generally satisfactory, and in this context expresses its appreciation and support for the work of the United Nations civilian police support group. The Council notes, however, that public confidence in the police is low. The Council calls upon the Croatian Government to take measures, including through public information and police preventive action, to improve public confidence in the police as part of a wider programme of measures to prevent ethnically motivated crime and ensure the protection and equal treatment of all Croatian citizens, regardless of ethnicity.

"The Security Council stresses that, following the termination of UNTAES, responsibility for the full reintegration of the Danube region lies clearly with the Croatian Government. The United Nations will continue to work closely with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in monitoring the situation and reminding the Croatian Government of its obligations."

Letters before Council

The Council had before it an aide-memoire submitted by Croatia's Permanent Representative (document S/1998/197), presenting his country's views on the situation in its Eastern Slavonia region. It states that "the reintegration process in the region, specific problems notwithstanding, is an important and ongoing success, resulting from fruitful cooperation between Croatia, the United Nations and the international community".

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According to the note, early expectations for the reintegration process had been low, because the region was occupied from 1991 to 1996 by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and its local proxies, which committed serious acts of ethnic cleansing, destruction and killing, bordering on genocide. The lack of confidence resulting from that situation will require time to heal. "Timely punishment of individual responsibility would mitigate the negative tendency to invoke collective responsibility."

Since assuming executive authority over the region on 16 January, Croatia has continued its reintegration activities, primarily within a programme established by the National Council for Reconciliation, the aide- memoire states. It has also begun redrafting legislation relating to housing and private ownership to further accelerate the two-way return of ethnic Serbs to the region. Further, the Croatian leadership, including the President and Prime Minister, is active in reassuring that population about their rightful place in Croatian society.

When Croatia assumed executive responsibility over the region, progress in the areas of economic revitalization and local police activity were cited as crucial to the success of reintegration, the note state. However, despite success regarding police activity, the dire economic situation remains a key source of problems in the region and the main obstacle facing the local population. It led some to leave and many more to avoid returning. "The rebuilding of housing and production facilities, the creation of employment opportunities, as well as demining, hold the key to the future. To this end, an international conference for the reconstruction and development of Croatia is planned for May."

Also before the Council was a letter dated 26 February from the Charge d'affaires of the Permanent Mission of Yugoslavia (document S/1998/161) transmitting the text of an aide-memoire on developments in the region of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium since the termination of the UNTAES mandate on 15 January.

According to the note, "worrisome negative developments" in the region are leading to an ever larger exodus of Serbs and are jeopardizing the results of the United Nations mission. It says the Croatian Government has shown no readiness to fully comply with the Basic Agreement and the commitments undertaken in its letter of 13 January 1997. As a result of Croatian policies, the number of Serbs living in the region has decreased from 128,000 in 1997 to 70,000 and is still falling.

The Serbs are subject to various forms of discrimination, pressure, intimidation, anti-Serb media campaigns, summary dismissals and the denial of property, educational, cultural and other rights. In the last 40 days, 5,000 Serbs left the region for the Federal Republic, Republika Srpska, Norway, United Kingdom and Canada. The exodus of Serbs under pressure continues

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unabated and might soon turn into ethnic cleansing invalidating the concept of the region's multi-ethnic nature.

The note details incidents of threats and intimidation against Serbs and lists families who have been evicted from their homes in incidents of ethnic cleansing. A law preventing Serbs from returning to apartments to which they acquired tenancy rights prior to 1991 remains in force. Approximately 400 Serbs have been dismissed from the local administration and further dismissals from public institutions and companies are pending under the claim that 30,000 employees are redundant.

There has been no progress in implementing agreements on cultural and educational autonomy, and the amnesty law had not been implemented, the note states. Instead, new indictments for alleged war crimes are brought more frequently. Refugees from Krajina and Western Slavonia who as Croatian citizens found refuge in Eastern Slavonia are discriminated against, despite the guarantees of the Basic Agreement that all residents of the region will be treated equally.

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For information media. Not an official record.