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Bosnia-Herzegovina: UN official denounces police role in recent mob violence

Bosnia-Herzegovina: UN official denounces police role in recent mob violence

The top United Nations official in Bosnia and Herzegovina today denounced the country's police for orchestrating the recent mob violence which broke out in response to international efforts to clean up corruption at the Herzegovacka Bank.

"I strongly condemn the officials, including police officers, who went as far as to aid and abet the very criminals robbing the Croat people of their hard-earned savings," said Jacques Paul Klein, the Secretary-General's Special Representative, in a statement issued out of the Sarajevo headquarters of the UN Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH). "Instead of supporting the thugs attacking the international officials sent to stabilize the bank and protect the people's money, the police should have done their jobs and upheld the law," he added.

UNMIBH today reported that the situation in the country was calm and that all UN personnel were back at work following last Friday's violent demonstrations by Bosnian Croats.

Those demonstrations came in response to the decision by Wolfgang Petritsch -- the "High Representative" who oversees implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords -- to appoint a provisional administrator for the Herzegovacka Bank.

One UN police officer sustained injuries after being beaten by demonstrators, while another was among a group of international personnel that was briefly detained, and later released, by Bosnian Croats in the town of Grude.

While the UN continues its investigation into the performance of local police during the violence, Mr. Klein said the Bosnian Croat people should demand accountability from their leaders and prosecute all criminals who "shamelessly steal" from the country's people.

"Last month, the people of Yugoslavia finally stood up to Milosevic who had manipulated and robbed them for years," said Mr. Klein, noting that the "once powerful strongman" was now behind bars. "I believe strongly that the Bosnian Croats have the courage and wisdom to do the same."

Addressing himself directly to the Bosnian Croats, Mr. Klein said they were being manipulated by a leadership which, out of fear of losing power, was playing the nationalist card. "The attempt to unilaterally create a separatist Croat administration in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a dead-end street," he said. "Those who tell you otherwise are lying to you."