RETURN TO UNCONQUERED BOSNIA HOMEPAGE
This article does not have permission of the copyright owner, but is
being offered for comment, criticism and research under the "fair use"
provisions of the Federal copyright laws.
Speech of Mr. Alija Izetbegovic, President of Bosnia and Herzegovina, for the 49 session of General Assembly of the United Nations. 27th of September 1994:
Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, Distinguished delegates...
Allow me at the outset, to commend His Excellency Mr. Samuel Insanally for the able manner in which he conducted the work of the 48th Session of the General Assembly. I would also like to congratulate H.E. Mr. Amara Essy for his election as the President of this 49th Session. I wish him all success in pursuing this very important task.
I would like to thank the President for giving me this opportunity to speak on behalf of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina at this distinguished gathering. I thank you all for your attention.
Mr. President, I come from Bosnia and Herzegovina, a faraway country that has currently been the subject of many discussions. Unfortunately, I have to begin my statement by repeating facts that for the majority of you may be, or should be, well known.
At the time--some three years ago, when Yugoslavia underwent its dissolution, we were doing our best to conduct this separation in a peaceful fashion and without any violence. For reasons already known to us all, our initiatives bore no fruits.
When Slovenia and Croatia had seceded, and the dissolution of Yugoslavia had become inevitable, we organized a referendum in order to decide, in a democratic manner, about the fate of Bosnia. By two-thirds majority (that is, exactly: 64,4%) of the registered voter body, citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina opted for the independence of the country at the referendum of March 1, 1992. The international recognition of our country followed soon after, and so did the aggression against it. The decision of recognition was made on April 5, 1992, and it was announced the following day, April 6, 1992. The Serbian and Montenegrin aggression against Bosnia and Herzegovina began on April 5, 1992, the same day when the decision on recognition was passed.
The aggression continues to this day, with more or, at times, less intensity, and without any prospects of it coming to an end soon.
War, that was forced upon Bosnia and Herzegovina and its peoples, and has now entered its 31st month, belongs to the bloodiest wars in the history of mankind. In its very beginnings, it was not a war, but an attack of a well armed and equipped army, the former Yugoslav Army, against defenseless citizens.
The results of this uneven struggle are as follows: 70% of our country fell under occupation in the first months of the war, more than 200,000 civilians have been killed, over 1,000 000 (or one fourth) of our inhabitants have been expelled from their homes, hundreds of cities and villages destroyed and burnt.
This cannot be described as a classic example of a warfare between two armies. This has been a war of an army against civilians, followed by genocide and, until this time, unprecedented destruction of cultural and religious objects.
The world has not responded in an appropriate manner to such barbarism.
Whether it was because of the brutality of the attack, or being morally and psychologically unprepared, or perhaps, due to the entanglement in its contradictory interests, the world appeared confused and hesitant.
When the news and pictures of new concentration camps in the heart of Europe came out, the public was astonished, but the responsible ones mostly kept silent. Tens of thousands of people have perished in these camps, and many thousands of them have disappeared, without any trace.
The more brutal an attack, the more hesitant the world became. The free world neither defended, nor supported freedom. Our people, facing the threat of extermination and a clearly pronounced death sentence, decided to defend itself. But then it encountered a new absurdity. It had found its
hands tied. Namely, before the war was waged against Bosnia and Herzegovina, The United Nations imposed a notorious resolution that banned any import of weapons in the territory of Former Yugoslavia. Everything changed, the war began, the aggressor and the victim emerged, but the arms embargo has remained in place, as if nothing had happened in the meantime. Justice has turned into injustice, because the aggressor had weapons--which had been stockpiled over 40 years time--while the victim was unarmed and its hands were kept tied.
The resolution on the arms embargo became its own contradiction. By maintaining the imbalance in weaponry, it has prolonged the war, and it has turned peace negotiations into diktats by the better armed aggressor.
We told the world: you do not have to come to defend us, but do untie our hands and allow us, at least, to defend ourselves. While they kill our children, rape our women, and destroy all our relics, do recognize our right to self-defense.
However, the arms embargo has remained in place until present times. Practically, with only guns and rifles in our hands, our defenders have stood against artillery and tanks. We have lost many people. Data reports indicate that more than 90% of them have been killed by grenades and artillery shells. Our cities and villages have been left at the mercy of this powerful military technology in the hands of the murderers.
In the capital of Sarajevo alone, more than 10 000 have been killed, and more than 50 000 wounded. There is not a single family without casualties--killed or wounded.
To all this, the world has sent us only one message: negotiate.
Believing that the only right path was to continue to defend our land and in this just struggle to be supported by the peace and freedom loving world, we refused to negotiate with war criminals for a very long time.
Finally, faced with the unbearable plight of our people and the indifference of the world, and without any choice, we accepted the negotiations. It turned out that the aggressor had only used negotiations as a bargain for time and a coverup for the continuation of the aggression.
In March, 1993, after long and painful negotiations, and with many a concession from our side, we signed the Vance/Owen Plan. The aggressor rejected it.
The next bloody round of war came about, followed by another round of negotiations. As a result was a Peace Plan of July 5, 1994, by the Contact Group, consisting of the world's 5 most powerful states, (USA, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Russian Federation) . This time again, we have chosen peace and the attackers have, once again, opted for a continuation of the war.
We have accepted the unjust peace offer in order to halt the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We have done so hoping that the injustice of the peace plan could still be corrected in the years of peace. Knowing the soul of Bosnia, we believed and we still believe that peace rescues and war destroys everything that we call Bosnia.
And what we call Bosnia is not only a small piece of land in the Balkans. For many of us, Bosnia and Herzegovina is not just a homeland, it is an idea. It is a belief that peoples of different religions, nationalities and cultural traditions, can live together. If it happened that this dream was forever buried, and this idea of tolerance among the peoples in these areas was irretrievably gone, the guilt would lie not only with the ones who have been relentlessly killing Bosnia with their mortars for over thirty months, but nonetheless, with many of he powerful from the rest of the world who could have helped, yet have chosen to do otherwise.
Two days ago, I left Sarajevo. I did not leave by plane, because the airport was closed. I had to take land routes through woods that are constantly exposed to fire and where many people are killed daily. For days, there is no electricity, water and gas in the city. The capital is completely blocked and it is virtually dying.
Yesterday, after I had arrived to the United Nations building, I received a letter from Srebrenica, a small town on the river Drina. The letter was supposed to be a report, but it is moreover a cry from a real human hell. I could find no strength to read this letter for the second time.
It has been over three months, since a new wave of ethnic cleansing reignited. Thousands of civilians, whose only fault was that they were not Serbs, have been expelled from their homes in Banja Luka, Bijeljina, Janja and other towns under the control of Karadzic's army.
Once again, nothing has been done. The world seems to have gradually gotten accustomed to unpunished violations of the basic norms of international law. This is an ill stage, that concerns every man and every woman in the world, no matter how close or far from Bosnia they may be.
For a very long period of time, I have rejected - and still reject- "a theory of conspiracy", that is, that all this that has befallen Bosnia is because the majority nation is a Muslim people and that there are some dark powers who have consciously pushed Serbs towards the extermination of Bosnian Muslims.
Those who claim so, have their own arguments . I believe You have heard them before : namely, an obvious aggression, followed by genocide, concentration camps and other forms of the darkest fascism are on stage in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The world can only be blind not to see it. Is it blind, or does it consciously accept all these evils? Blind it is not, therefore, the other possibility remains. This is their argument that has
gained ever more supporters.
It will not be good if a billion Muslims in the world
accept this argument.
The latest events in and around the Plan of the Contact Group have given the supporters of "theory of conspiracy" an additional argument. Namely, Bosnia and Herzegovina has been offered a proposal that was backed by five major powers, and therefore, by the majority in the international community. It was clearly stated that the side who rejected the plan would be punished, while the side who accepted the plan would be protected.
The opposite happened: Serbs rejected the Plan and they have been rewarded by the suspension of sanctions. We have accepted the Plan and we have been punished by a complete blockade of Sarajevo. Both processes ran parallelly and simultaneously.
These days, the highest United Nation's civilian and military authorities are warning us: If you demand and succeed in the lifting of the arms embargo, UNPROFOR will pull out from the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, etc., etc.
I have, certainly, not undertaken this long and arduous trip from Bosnia to America only to convey the facts that may be known to the majority of you.
We, in Bosnia believe that Good and Justice, despite the hardships, cannot be defeated. We do not give up faith that the world could be better and that we should all work and we should all try over and over again in order to make it better.
With this conviction, I have come to speak before you and to present some of our proposals, despite all our disappointments and frustrations.
From this General Assembly and the Security Council, we
1. That all Resolutions on Bosnia and Herzegovina adopted
by the Security Council and General Assembly be implemented;
2. That measures be taken in order to effectively monitor
the border between Serbia and Montenegro on one side, and Bosnia
and Herzegovina on the other side, so that any transport of
troops, weapons and military equipment over this border be prevented or timely detected;
3. Should this transport occur, that the decision on suspension of some of the sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro ( Security Council resolution 943/1994) be immediately recalled and tightened sanction measures be imposed in accordance with the Plan of the Contact Group of July, 1994;
4. That there will be no further easing of the sanctions towards Serbia and Montenegro until they recognize Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia within its internationally recognized borders;
5. That a resolution be adopted, without delay, which would strengthen the protection of and mandate the extension of the safe areas as in Security Council Resolutions 824 and 836, and in accordance with provisions of Article 6, of the Contact Group Plan;
6. That decisions be taken that would prevent and ensure an immediate end to the strangulation of Sarajevo. As an integral part, these measures should envisage the opening of the city along the north communication route ( road and highway), by creating a demilitarized belt, 2.5 kilometers wide, on both sides of these routes. In this demilitarized belt, only the United Nations troops and police may remain. Potential use of force against the strangulation of Sarajevo, as is envisaged under Article 4, of the NATO decision of February 9, 1994.
Provided that the above conditions be fulfilled, and with a condition that UNPROFOR continues to carry out its mission, the Government of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina would be willing to accept a new, modified formula for the problem of the arms embargo.
Namely, we would limit our demand for the lifting of the arms embargo only to the adoption of formal decision, while its application, or its consequences, would be deferred for another six months.
In this case, UNPROFOR troops could remain in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Contact Group would fulfill its promise, and a clear message would be conveyed to Karadzic's Serbs.
At the end, we would also like to state our two commitments:
1. Our irrevocable objective is a democratic Bosnia and Herzegovina within its internationally recognized borders, and with full ethnic, religious and political rights for all its citizens.
Within a such Bosnia and Herzegovina as envisioned, the Serbs will have all rights up to the highest level of autonomy, but they cannot have a state within a state.
2. We consider that as all other nations, we have the unalienable right to self-defense. Therefore, should for any reason, our compromising proposal on the arms embargo be rejected, we will then seek from our friends that this embargo be lifted immediately, and even unilaterally.
In closing this statement, I take this opportunity to express our sincere gratitude to all friends of Bosnia who have supported its struggle for survival and freedom.
I thank You, Mr. President.
RETURN TO UNCONQUERED BOSNIA HOMEPAGE