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UN Bosnia mission, set to wind up, laid foundation for recovery - Annan

UN Bosnia mission, set to wind up, laid foundation for recovery - Annan

The United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH) – one of the most extensive police reform and restructuring projects ever undertaken by the world body – has helped to lay the foundation for the country’s recovery and development, Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a new report released today.

Through UNMIBH, which is slated to complete its mandate at the end of this year, "the United Nations has demonstrated its ability to complete a complex mandate in accordance with a strategic plan and within a realistic and finite time frame," Mr. Annan writes.

The mission's activities, which helped to pave the way for over 250,000 returns and the creation of an atmosphere of overall security, "laid the foundation for post-war recovery and development," he notes.

The Secretary-General also points out that while a firm foundation for sustainable peace has been established, many key "rule-of-law" challenges lie ahead, including corruption, the need for judicial reform and the continued presence of indicted war criminals within Bosnian territory. "Until local authorities begin to arrest, indict and prosecute war crimes suspects to the full extent of the law, reconciliation and stability cannot be achieved," he warns.

Among the Mission's recent accomplishments has been the accreditation of two police administrations - in the Republika Srpska and Canton 1 in Bihac - which were found to have met basic international standards of democratic policing.

The Mission completed its ground-breaking plan to minimize political interference in police work by establishing independent police commissioners in all ten cantons, as well as directors of police in the Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, according to the report, which also hails the establishment of the State Border Service that now controls all land borders with neighbouring countries.

Other UNMIBH successes include establishing a uniform licence plate allowing for improved freedom of movement, setting recruiting standards for the hiring of police officers, implementing a sanctions regime targeting officers in non-compliance, securing two major restructuring agreements which set targets for minority representation, and placing international advisors within the cantonal police and interior ministry structures.

The European Union Police Mission (EUPM) will take over from UNMIBH as of 1 January 2003. To ensure continuity, over 100 International Police Task Force (IPTF) members will be retained in their current positions.

UNMIBH was established in 1996 following six years of civil wars in which some 200,000 people died, 20,000 went missing and 1.2 million were internally displaced.