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Bosnian leader: 'Ethnic cleansing' continues 15 years after war

By Tom Evans, CNN
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Dysfunction since Dayton
  • 'Ethnic cleansing' remains in Bosnia-Herzegovina, member of rotating presidency says
  • Haris Silajdzic, a Bosnian Muslim, says people did not return home after war in 1990s
  • Silajdzic: Bosnia divisions deeper than ever because peace accords not implemented
  • Paralysis in the Bosnian government because of ethnic voting blocs, Silajdzic alleges

(CNN) -- As the genocide trial of former Bosnian Serb Leader Radovan Karadzic resumed Monday in the Netherlands, a member of Bosnia-Herzegovina's rotating presidency said that, in effect, "ethnic cleansing" continues -- 15 years after a brutal civil war there ended.

"The ethnic cleansing is there because people did not come back to their homes. Hundreds of thousands of them are around the world today and that's the problem," Haris Silajdzic, a Bosnian Muslim, told CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

"The ethnic divisions continued because people did not go back, were not allowed to go back, to their homes, including Srebrenica, where the genocide took place, and other places, too."

His comments came on the same day that Karadzic, who faces 11 charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide during the 1992-1995 Bosnian conflict, told an international tribunal in The Hague that the Serb cause is "just and holy" .

The charges relate to the killing of almost 100,000 people in the war, many of them in "ethnic cleansing," a term first coined in the Bosnian conflict. Yugoslavia -- once a multi-ethnic state of Serbs, Croats and Muslims -- dissolved into six countries during the bloody conflict in the early 1990s.

Among other things, Karadzic is accused of being responsible for the 44-month siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, in which some 10,000 people were killed, and the 1995 ethnic cleansing of the U.N.-protected enclave of Srebrenica, where more than 7,000 Bosnian men and boys were slaughtered in the worst genocide in Europe since World War II.

Silajdzic said the divisions in Bosnia are deeper than ever, because the world has not implemented the peace accords that ended the conflict and allowed refugees to return to their homes.

He also said there is paralysis in the Bosnian government because Serb legislators are voting as an ethnic bloc in the country's parliament and blocking progress.

"If we unblock this, we actually have a democracy in Bosnia, not ethnocracy", he declared.

But the former international High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lord Paddy Ashdown, told Amanpour that the Dayton Accords that ended the war have not failed and in fact have been a success.

"We made more progress in ten years in Bosnia than we did in Northern Ireland in 36 (years)," Ashdown said.

He acknowledged that since 2006, Bosnia has begun to unravel and is now going backwards.

"We have to complete the job. We were, I think, eight-tenths of the way there by 2006, but because the international community and above all Brussels took their eye off the ball, this thing started to unravel backwards again", he added.

"So instead of having progress towards unity, we now have a dangerous dynamic moving the opposite direction towards nationalism, and that may well be reflected in the coming elections."

He said he does not think war will break out again in Bosnia. "The real danger is that Bosnia descends backwards into a black hole of corruption, criminality, and dysfunctionality in the middle of the Balkans."

Ashdown said that U.S. President Barack Obama and the European Union's new so-called foreign minister, Catherine Ashton, must get the political momentum moving again so Bosnia can achieve full membership of "the two great Atlantic institutions" -- NATO and the European Union.

"When it's made those changes, I think people will see it as one of the little jewels of Europe," he added.