Political disputes in Bosnia and Herzegovina are impeding the return of over 117,000 people, dooming them to endure the consequences of wartime atrocities 14 years after the end of the Balkan conflict that drove them from their homes, an independent United Nations expert said today.
“Bosnia’s internally displaced need durable solutions to rebuild their lives,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Representative on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) Walter Kälin said on his return to Geneva from Sarajevo, the capital. “However, the present political disputes endanger the progress needed to address their humanitarian needs and to remove an important obstacle to a lasting peace.”
He stressed that a revised strategy plank of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the war sets out a range of measures to assist IDPs, dealing with all relevant elements for a durable solution on issues of housing and property, security, livelihoods, health and education, non-discrimination and reconciliation, but certain political parties have blocked its adoption in the upper house of the parliament.
“There are still more than 117,000 registered IDPs who are in need of durable solutions,” Mr. Kälin said, noting the revised strategy reaffirms that return is the preferred solution, while also providing space for local integration, especially of the most vulnerable.
“Many returnees need to have their houses reconstructed and connected to infrastructure. It is just as important that they benefit from equal opportunities to find employment. It also needs to be ensured that their pensions and social welfare entitlements are transferred to their place of return,” he added, calling on the Government not to reduce budget allocations for a durable solution and on donors to continue to provide the necessary funding.
He recalled that 7,500 people still reside in often dreadful conditions in collective centres. “Most of these people are too vulnerable or traumatized to return. However, they should and can be integrated locally,” he said.
“For example, I met a woman who suffered unspeakable atrocities during the war and did not want to return to her home region. When she received a small apartment after spending more than a decade in limbo, she said that the war had finally come to an end for her.”