Reports cast doubt on prospect of free, fair elections in Bosnia But West is anxious to see scheduled voting


SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- Reports prepared by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which must determine if human rights conditions in Bosnia are good enough for scheduled elections to be held this fall, chronicle abuses that call into question the ability to carry out a free and fair vote.

These reports, if made public, could make it difficult for the organization's officials to certify that conditions are in place for elections. But these officials said they were under "intense pressure" from Washington, as well as most European capitals, to give the go-ahead for the vote, regardless of the situation on the ground.

Under the Dayton peace accord concluded last year, elections are to take place by Sept. 14. The U.S. official who heads the organization's Sarajevo mission, Robert Frowick, has said that he must make a recommendation by July 14 about holding the elections to allow time for campaigning.

Frowick, now in Tokyo, was unavailable for comment yesterday, his office said.

The internal human rights reports for May paint a dismal picture.

For example, the May 23 report quotes the assistant justice minister of the Bosnian Serbs as telling the organization's monitors that the self-styled Republic of Srpska opposed plans for training local election observers, "as this system would stand in the way of the wishes of Republic of Srpska authorities."

The assistant justice minister of the Bosnian Serbs told a security organization official that not only would the Serbs not NTC cooperate with the organization in creating independent election commissions, but that they were setting up their own, completely separate, election-monitoring body.

Not long after his meeting with the Bosnian Serb minister, the security organization official reported that a "homemade explosive device" was thrown at his car, on May 16. He said that "traces of dynamite were left, and paint on the roof of the car was damaged."

Western officials contend that the elections, however flawed, will begin to build joint federal institutions in Bosnia. They say that a failure to allow the elections to take place will only harden partition lines and make it harder, if not impossible, to rebuild the multiethnic Bosnia envisaged by the Dayton peace agreement.

But European officials say that given the current recalcitrance by all parties, and especially the Bosnian Serbs, about holding free and fair elections, any vote would be meaningless.

"It is a terrible dilemma for us," said a senior European diplomat involved in the process. "We all know the situation is bad. People who try to cross from one side to the other get beaten and harassed and eventually go back. But if we don't certify, the ethnic partition will remain and ethnic cleansing will be rewarded. Elections, and the attempt to establish federal institutions, are all we have left."

The Dayton agreement calls for nationwide elections to choose representatives from the Croatian, Serbian and Muslim enclaves who will administer joint federal bodies, including a three-person presidency.

Municipal elections, which were also to take place, will probably have to be postponed because the OSCE has been unable to set up a voter registration center to coordinate who has the right to vote where.

Pub Date: 6/02/96

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