Interim reply to Recommendation 1287 (1996) on refugees, displaced persons and reconstruction in certain countries of the former Yugoslavia

 

Doc. 7566

24 May 1996

COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS

adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 15 May 1996 at the 566th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies


            The Committee of Ministers has studied with interest, and decided to bring to the attention of their Governments as well as of the Governing Body of the Social Development Fund, for opinion, Recommendation 1287 (1996) of the Parliamentary Assembly.

            Concerning the recommendation (paragraph 19.i) to set up a specific structure and invite member States to contribute to its financing, it is recalled that, following the holding of the third high-level ("2+2") meeting OSCE/Council of Europe (Strasbourg, 23 January 1996), the two Chairmen-in-Office, together with High Representative Carl Bildt, addressed a joint appeal (30 January 1996) to the Council of Europe and OSCE States for the funding of the Human Rights structures, foreseen in the Peace Agreement, through voluntary contributions. The structure in question is the Human Rights Commission of Bosnia and Herzegovina, officially inaugurated on 27 March 1996, consisting of:

          -        an Ombudsman (Ambassador Gret Haller) appointed, in accordance with the Peace Agreement, by OSCE. Two members of the Council of Europe Secretariat have been seconded to her staff in Sarajevo since 19 February 1996;

          -        a Human Rights Chamber, eight of whose fourteen members, including the Chairman, have been appointed by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, after consultation of the Parties to the Agreement (see Resolution (96) 8 adopted on 12 March 1996).

            As regards the urgent issue of the return of refugees and displaced persons, the President of the European Court of Human Rights, in accordance with the role assigned to him by the Peace Agreement for the establishment of the Commission for Displaced Persons and Refugees, has appointed three of its members including the Chair.

            The above-mentioned joint appeal for funding stresses that the early functioning of this Commission also needs outside funding. The three signatories also draw attention to the fact that the Council of Europe is at present assessing the needs for the development of programmes in Bosnia and Herzegovina relating to human rights monitoring, democratic institution-building and cooperation at the level of local authorities in particular.

            According to information available in the beginning of May 1996, the state of contributions is as follows:

            The Swiss and the Danish governments have contributed 1 million USD each (10 300 000 Austrian schillings ATS approximately) earmarked respectively to the functioning of the Ombudsman's Office and to the Human Rights Chamber. In addition contributions have been received from Norway (1 130 000 ATS) and from the Netherlands (1 006 400 ATS) for staffing of the Ombudsman's Office, and without specific designation, from Austria (250 000 ATS), Finland (700 000 ATS), Liechtenstein (130 253 ATS), Norway (1 044 000 ATS), Sweden (700 000 USD) and Turkey (249 929 ATS). Andorra has announced a contribution of 100 000 FF. The United States of America also announced, in connection with the Assembly's debate on 25 April 1996 on the implementation of the Dayton Agreement, a contribution of 500 000 US dollars to support the Human Rights Chamber and the Ombudsman. Consultations between the OSCE and the Council of Europe are under way on the budgeting assessment and on the management of the funds.

            Preparation, conduct and observation of parliamentary elections in the autumn of 1996 are the responsibility of the OSCE, which has appointed an Election Monitoring Coordinator. The OSCE's Chairman-in-Office has appealed to the Council of Europe, and the Parliamentary Assembly in particular, to give support to the work of the Coordinator.

            On 11 December 1995, the Secretary General had already presented two series of measures which the Council of Europe might take in the field of rehabilitation and reconstruction of democratic institutions and the rule of law in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia (SG/Inf(95)16).

            At their 554th meeting (January 1996), the Ministers' Deputies agreed to a limited number of urgent measures for Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. This total expenditure of about 4 million FF covers measures resulting from mandates given to the Council of Europe by the Peace Agreement or relating to activities which the Council of Europe traditionally undertakes with states which are candidates for membership. The main areas are:

          -        Human Rights (including appropriate links with and assistance to the Human Rights Chamber and the Ombudsman; legislative assistance with a view to ensuring that the legislation is compatible with the standards of the European Convention on Human Rights; human rights monitoring),

          -        Institutional and Legal Questions (including legal advice on constitutional matters; citizenship questions),

          -        Refugees and Displaced Persons (including the human dimension of return and resettlement; if need be legislative appraisal and training for the staff of the Commission for Displaced Persons and Refugees),

         -        Local Democracy (including support for the action of Local Democracy Embassies in Tuzla, Sarajevo (opened on 13 March 1996), Osijek and later Mostar and Sisak; legislative assistance in the establishing of the legal framework for local government; restoration of local government services in the form of sponsorship/training arrangements between local authorities and through a special fund supplied by financial contributions from the local and regional authorities of Europe).

            Where training of human rights monitors is concerned, a coordination meeting took place in Geneva on 1 March 1996 with the participation of the Council of Europe, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and the UN Centre for Human Rights to discuss more in depth the mandate of the monitors, training courses and Council of Europe involvement in the training.

            Council of Europe officials from the Directorate of Human Rights and the Secretariat of the Commission for the Prevention of Torture also participated in the first introductory courses for monitors from 12 to 16 February in Vienna to brief the latter on Council of Europe standards and give them appropriate guidelines. The Council of Europe will also take part in courses to be held in Sarajevo.

            Dialogue with the UNHCR (paragraph 19.ii), responsible under the Agreement for coordinating the contribution of the international community as a whole in the field of its competence, has been pursued intensively. As a result, UNHCR will use the Council of Europe's expertise in preparing lasting solutions to problems linked with the return of refugees. In this context, an exchange of views was organised (25-29 March 1996) on the legislation of the various countries of the region relating to citizenship.

            Where the Social Development Fund is concerned, the Committee of Ministers has invited the Fund's member States to make voluntary contributions to the Fund's "selective trust account" to enable this to function, in particular, for the financing of projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Committee of Ministers has also invited the member States of the Social Development Fund to give the required guarantee to such projects.

            Where relations with Croatia (paragraph 19.vi) are concerned, a political dialogue took place on 24 January 1996 between the Ministers' Deputies and Mr Mate Grani_, Minister for Foreign Affairs, in the framework of the Enlarged Rapporteur Group (GREL). Moreover, Council of Europe experts participated in a fact-finding mission organised by OSCE from 6 to 10 October 1995, and in a follow-up mission, which visited Eastern Slavonia and Krajina, to assess developments, from 20 to 24 February 1996. On 12 March 1996, the Ministers' Deputies held an exchange of views with Mr Jacques Klein, the UN's Transitional Administrator for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES). A number of concrete requests were addressed to the Council of Europe to which the Deputies decided to respond favourably.

            A delegation of experts on constitutional matters went to Croatia from 15 to 16 March 1996 to examine the conditions of implementation of the 1991 Constitutional law on the protection of human rights and minorities, and in particular the setting up of a provisional Court of Human Rights.

            The closest coordination in all aspects of civilian implementation of the Peace Agreement, including with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Commission of the European Communities (paragraph 19.viii.d and 19.ix), is assured through regular Council of Europe representation at international coordination meetings including meetings in Brussels and (weekly) in Sarajevo of the Human Rights Task Force, chaired by the Office of High Representative Carl Bildt. The Secretary General, who visited Sarajevo from 20 to 22 March 1996, has appointed a member of the Secretariat as the Organisation's representative to the Task Force in Sarajevo.

            Where the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (paragraph 19.viii.e) is concerned, the Council of Europe is giving assistance to member States in adapting their legislation to the needs of the Tribunal, for example by organising, under the aegis of the European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC) (13 and 14 October 1993) an exchange of views of experts on the repercussions on international legal cooperation and domestic law of the creation of the Tribunal.

Furthermore, the Secretariat seeks to obtain copies of national legislation enacted by member States, aiming at taking care of the Tribunal's needs, and distributes such texts regularly, as a matter of information, to all member States.

            Where the recommendation contained in paragraph 19.iv is concerned, ("to consider the possibility of inviting representatives of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia") the Committee of Ministers, having no relations with that State as such, is not yet in a position to reply. It would, however, remind the Assembly that it has always encouraged the Secretariat to maintain relations with non-governmental circles in that country. Moreover, for its activities connected with implementation of the Dayton Agreement, it has invited experts from Belgrade, for example in connection with citizenship legislation.