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Bosnia and Herzegovina: UN mission condemns political interference with police work

Bosnia and Herzegovina: UN mission condemns political interference with police work

The United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH) and the top civilian official responsible for implementing the Dayton peace accord today wrote to the country's political parties and Interior Ministries denouncing interference with local police work.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms any form of political obstruction of the work of law enforcement agencies, and give our full support to all Police Commissioners and their counterparts at the entity and state level in Bosnia-Herzegovina as the senior operational police commanders," said the letter sent by UNMIBH and High Representative Paddy Ashdown.

According to the letter, pressure is being put on senior police officers by a number of "political players, including Ministers of Interior and some political parties," with the aim of exerting political influence on the police.

"Political interference in operational police matters is in clear contradiction of the principles of democratic policing and is entirely unacceptable," the letter said. "We will not tolerate any attempts by political or criminal elements to obstruct or subvert the work of the police forces of Bosnia-Herzegovina."

The letter stressed that the Mission and the Office of the High Representative will continue with democratic police reforms in the country, including a zero-tolerance policy of political interference in law enforcement. "The people of Bosnia-Herzegovina deserve a non-political police force that serves them, not the politicians or their parties," the letter said.

In other news, UNMIBH said today that it has begun the downsizing of its law enforcement personnel, as the Mission is due to complete its mandate at the end of the year. Since last week, groups of monitors belonging to the International Police Task Force (ITPF) have been leaving the country and returning home.

About 470 international police officers will remain in Bosnia and Herzegovina to serve under the European Union's Police Mission, which will take over for UNMIBH on 1 January.