University of Minnesota

Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of
Racial Discrimination, Bosnia and Herzegovina, U.N. Doc. A/48/18, paras. 453-473 (1993).




Forty-second session


Concluding observations of the Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Bosnia and Herzegovina

453. At its 984th meeting, held on 19 March 1993, the Committee expressed grave concern over the ongoing ethnic conflict taking place in the territory of the former Yugoslavia and requested the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina to confirm its adherence to the Convention and, in the event, to submit, in accordance with article 9, paragraph 1, of the Convention, further information on the implementation of the Convention not later than 31 July 1993. The Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina subsequently deposited with the Secretary-General its instrument of succession to the Convention and submitted a report (CERD/C/247) which was considered by the Committee at its 1001st meeting held on 12 August 1993 (see CERD/C/SR.1001).

454. Members of the Committee expressed regret at the absence of the representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina who had informed the Committee of his inability to be present owing to prior commitments in connection with the peace talks taking place on the former Yugoslavia.

455. They noted that the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia had taken place since the Committee had considered that country's report in 1990. With regard to "ethnic cleansing", it was stated that although all parties to the conflict had been responsible for abuses, most of the victims had been Muslim. Violations included massacres, detention of civilians, torture and killing of prisoners and rape and other sexual abuses.

456. Members of the Committee drew attention to the conclusions contained in the report of the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights (E/CN.4/1994/3, paras. 90-93), particularly in regard to the grave humanitarian crisis existing in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina and on the need to establish "safe areas" there.

457. Members of the Committee also stressed that human rights concerns should be given priority in the peace process; that all detainees should be released immediately into conditions of safety; that blockades of cities and enclaves be ended immediately and humanitarian relief corridors opened; that the "safe areas" concept be expanded and applied to other areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina; and that the right to flight and the right to seek asylum should be guaranteed.

458. It was recommended that the new Constitution should incorporate the relevant articles of the Convention, particularly the definition of racial discrimination contained in article 1, since grave violations had clearly occurred. The Government could be requested to give the demographic composition of the population before and after the conflict. Further, attention should be drawn to all aspects of articles 2 and 3, stressing that parties should eradicate all practices of racial segregation in territories under their jurisdiction. Replies should be given in relation to articles 5 and 7, all of the provisions of which had been violated.

459. In the context of ethnic cleansing, members of the Committee stated that article 4 had to be reflected in the Penal Code and that the Civil Code should cover article 6, particularly with regard to war crimes and compensation for victims of ethnic cleansing.

460. It was pointed out that racial discrimination was at the root of the tragic situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and, in particular, that the provisions of articles 3 and 5 of the Convention were being flouted there. Since the Committee had the task of monitoring the implementation of the Convention, it had a duty to make a clear statement of principle deploring the violations of rights enshrined in the Convention.

461. Members noted that the current situation in the territory of the former Yugoslavia served as a lesson that racial discrimination and ethnic conflict, if not controlled at an early stage, could easily get out of control, escalate into armed conflict and result in a change in human attitudes which ran counter to the Convention and other human rights instruments. It was recommended therefore that, in view of deepening racism and racial discrimination in the world, the Committee should reserve time at each session to consider potentially dangerous situations under a separate agenda item. That would enable the Committee to function more effectively in an early warning and urgent action role.

462. It was pointed out that the International Tribunal which was being established pursuant to Security Council resolution 808 (1993) would play a vital role in prosecuting persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia and that States should be urged to cooperate with it.

463. Several members of the Committee stated that the subject of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) must be kept on the agenda of the Committee as part of an in-depth study of the situation in the former Yugoslavia.

Concluding observations

464. At its 1012th meeting, held on 20 August 1993, the Committee adopted the following concluding observations. 5/

5/ Mr. Agha Shahi stated that he did not wish to be associated with these concluding observations.

(a) Introduction

465. The Committee noted the report submitted by the State party but regretted that a representative was unable to present that report and to respond to the questions of the Committee.

(b) Positive aspects

466. The Committee welcomed the recent deposit with the Secretary-General of the instrument of succession of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Convention.

(c) Principal subjects of concern

467. The Committee was gravely concerned about the massive, gross and systematic human rights violations occurring in the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as practices of "ethnic cleansing", including forced population transfers, torture, rape, summary executions, the blockading of international humanitarian aid and the commission of atrocities for the purpose of instilling terror among the civilian population. The Committee deplored the lack of effective action to bring to an end those and other human rights violations in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

468. The Committee was profoundly concerned that the human rights violations occurring in Bosnia and Herzegovina were being committed on the basis of "ethnic identity" for the purpose of attempting to create ethnically pure States. The Committee emphasized that such attempts were completely contrary to the spirit and the principles of the Convention. Furthermore, the Committee was concerned that partition along ethnic lines in Bosnia and Herzegovina could encourage groups elsewhere who were unwilling to respect the territorial integrity of States.

(d) Suggestions and recommendations

469. The Committee strongly supported the principle of multi-ethnic societies and States and, to that end, recommended that active and effective measures should be urgently taken in support of efforts to promote inter-ethnic tolerance and understanding in Bosnia and Herzegovina and to end ethnic divisions there. To that end, multi-ethnic organizations and movements should be encouraged and an ongoing dialogue should be fostered on an urgent basis among leaders and representatives of the various communities with a view to reducing tension, building confidence and ending the conflict.

470. The Committee urged the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina and all parties concerned to take all measures at their disposal to bring to an end the massive, gross and systematic human rights violations occurring in the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In that connection, the Committee strongly recommended that effective action should be taken to ensure that refugees and other displaced persons were allowed to return to their homes, all detainees were released immediately into conditions of safety and adequate reparation was given to the victims.

471. The Committee reaffirmed that those responsible for massive, gross and systematic human rights violations and crimes against international humanitarian law should be held responsible and prosecuted. In that connection, the Committee urged the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina to assist efforts to arrest, bring to trial and punish all those responsible for crimes which would be covered by the terms of reference of the International Tribunal established pursuant to Security Council resolution 808 (1993).

(e) Further action

472. The Committee offered its technical assistance to the State party in the form of a mission of one or more of its members for the purpose of promoting the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination and of preparing the next report.

473. In accordance with article 9, paragraph 1, of the Convention, the Committee requested further information from the State party on measures taken to implement the provisions of the Convention, particularly in the light of the above suggestions and recommendations. The State party was requested to provide that information by 1 January 1994 so that it might be considered by the Committee at its forty-fourth session.




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