March 8, 2013 – Washington, D.C. – On Monday, March 4, 2013, ACBH along with the Emerging Democracies Institute organized an event in the U.S. Congress titled “Bosnia and Herzegovina 17 Years Later: The U.S. Role in Overcoming Challenges to Stability.” The guest speaker was Dr. Emir Suljagic, survivor of the Srebrenica genocide, journalist, author, and activist. Dr. Suljagic is the author of Postcards from the Grave, the first account of the Srebrenica genocide that was published in the English language by a Bosnian survivor. Ahead of the local elections in 2012, Dr. Suljagic organized and led a successful voter registration effort “I will vote for Srebrenica” which currently serves as the model for the “March 1st” civic movement aimed at reversing the effects of genocide and ethnic cleansing on the entire territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).
Dr. Suljagic informed Congressional senior staff of the importance of continued U.S. engagement in BiH and the importance that the U.S. recommit itself to theDayton Peace Accords while holding the government of BiH responsible in upholding Annex 7. The Dayton Accords, which were reached at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, stopped the war in BiH and now serve as BiH’s constitution. The Dayton Accords have eleven annexes and Dr. Suljagic stressed the importance of Annex 7: Agreement on Refugees and Displaced Persons. In short, Annex 7 guarantees that: “All refugees and displaced persons have the right freely to return to their homes of origin. The Parties shall ensure that refugees and displaced persons are permitted to return in safety, without risk of harassment, intimidation, persecution, or discrimination, particularly on account of their ethnic origin, religious belief, or political opinion. The Parties shall take all necessary steps to prevent activities within their territories which would hinder or impede the safe and voluntary return of refugees and displaced persons.”
Dr. Suljagic warned that the BiH’s smaller entity, Republika Srpska (RS) has been violating the Dayton Peace Accords by stating that “The RS authorities are adamant about denying BiH citizens the freedom of movement and a choice of residence – rights that are guaranteed by the Annex 7 of the Dayton Peace Accords.” By employing fear and intimidation tactics, the RS has stopped the majority of displaced persons who were ethnically cleansed to go back to their pre-war place of residence. Approximately 5,000 acres of RS’s land is not being used for agricultural purposes due to the fact that the RS entity ethnically cleansed the majority of its non-Serb population and now there is no one to utilize these resources. In addition, the RS has spent over 1.6 million convertible marks of taxpayer money in promoting the denial of genocide which has also aided in discouraging survivors to come back.
The “March 1st” civil society initiative intends to register citizens of BiH to vote in their pre-war place of residence in the upcoming BiH general elections to be held in 2014. This would guarantee the formation of a list of multiethnic candidates in the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the National Assembly of Republika Srpska that are fighting against denials of genocide and facts established by the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
To learn more about the “March 1st” initiative please click here.