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Bosnia: UNHCR condemns intimidation of ethnic Serbs

Briefing notes

Bosnia: UNHCR condemns intimidation of ethnic Serbs

10 April 2001

UNHCR is alarmed by the recent acts of violence designed to intimidate ethnic Serbs who try to return to their pre-war homes in the Croat-controlled part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Last Friday, an explosive device was thrown at the house of a Serb who had just returned to a village near Grahovo, 150 km west of Bosnia's capital Sarajevo. Just two days earlier, a school rebuilt by the Norwegian Refugee Council was blown up in another Grahovo area village. The authorities planned to use the building to house Serb returnees while their homes were being repaired. The attacks caused no casualties but they are a cause for alarm since they clearly represent an attempt to intimidate Serbs trying to return to their pre-war homes. Before the two attacks, more than 3,000 ethnic Serbs returned to Grahovo without incident. Before the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia, the Grahovo municipality was almost entirely populated by ethnic Serbs who fled the area during the war. They started trickling back only in 1998.

The recent incidents in the Grahovo area are a sad exception in today's Bosnia and Herzegovina, where more and more people are going back to live among their former enemies. So far this year, a record 8,723 people have gone back to areas controlled by their former foes. Since the Dayton Peace Agreement ended the Bosnia war in November 1995, the number of people internally displaced by the conflict has gone down from over 800,000 to 518,000.