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Mr. Malcolm Wicks (Croydon, North): Does the Minister agree that in view of the genocide--that is the

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right word--in Bosnia, the British Government should use all their influence to ensure that the leading criminals are arrested and brought to justice as soon as possible?

Mr. Lloyd: In a word, yes--of course that is right. My hon. Friend raises an issue of fundamental importance. If he will allow me, however, I will deal with it later in my speech.

The Government are not prepared for the current situation of inertia and deliberate obfuscation and obstruction by the Bosnian authorities to drag on. That was the very clear message taken by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs three weeks ago to the meeting in Sintra, Portugal, of the Peace Implementation Council steering board--the body responsible for overseeing implementation of the Dayton peace agreement. The meeting's outcome was an unequivocal message to the Bosnian authorities to the effect that there was no alternative to the vision of Bosnia conceived at Dayton, that further attempts to prevent that vision from becoming a reality would simply not be tolerated and that the continued support--financial and otherwise--of the international community depended on their commitment to a peaceful and democratic future. The Sintra communique makes that message clear and I will present to the House one or two of its key passages.

First, it was stated at Sintra that there is no military option for any party or ethnic group in Bosnia in the future. The war is over--having brought death, destruction, and misery for millions--and no one will be allowed to restart it.

Secondly, there is no partition or secession option available. The idea of a new apartheid in Europe, of ethnically separate mini-states, is unworkable, immoral and cannot be accepted.

Thirdly, no single community in Bosnia can hope to dominate Bosnia's institutions. The peace agreement provides for power sharing on a basis of equality. That is the only possible future for Bosnia, and it is time that it was accepted by all the parties involved.

In essence, the steering board Foreign Ministers at Sintra signalled that their patience with Bosnia's leaders had run its course. Those individuals are prepared to put their own short-term political games and ethnic intolerance above the interests of their citizens, who are some of the poorest and most deprived people in Europe. That is unacceptable, and it will not be accepted.

In future, when any of Bosnia's leaders persist in blocking reintegration, or in pursuing options other than that set out in the peace agreement, the international community will find direct ways of achieving results. That could involve, for example, the suspension of any Bosnian media network or programme which promotes ethnic intolerance and refusing to deal with Bosnian ambassadors who represent just one of Bosnia's constituent peoples rather than the country as a whole. It could also involve the international community taking action to unify the telephone systems. It will certainly mean denying economic reconstruction assistance to those who consistently fail to meet their peace agreement obligations.

The Government are already putting the tough new stance into action. We have made it absolutely clear to the Bosnian Serbs that we are not prepared to tolerate

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their attempts to backtrack on commitments to economic legislation made at Sintra. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has sent extremely tough messages to both President Krajisnik and President Milosevic, emphasising the need for rapid agreement to the legislative package now under consideration by Bosnia's central institutions. In response to my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham, I can say that in the absence of agreement, all funds pledged for the Republika Srpska at the forthcoming World Bank and European Commission donor conference will be frozen.

The decisions taken by the steering board Foreign Ministers at Sintra gave new impetus to the process of peace implementation, and the momentum created must not be lost. It is up to the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to seize the chance that they have been given to rebuild their country on the basis of tolerance, democracy, respect for human rights and reconciliation, enabling it to move slowly but surely towards the European mainstream.

One aspect of non-implementation of the peace agreement, however, requires particular attention and condemnation--that of war crimes indictees. Thanks to the efforts of a courageous and committed group of journalists in Bosnia during the Bosnian war, we learned about the appalling crimes and atrocities of that conflict-- events which seemed inconceivable and which my generation believed could never happen in Europe at the end of the 20th century.

The international tribunal was established to bring certain individuals to justice, but to date--this is a matter raised by a number of hon. Members--most of those indicted by the tribunal remain at large in Bosnia and in neighbouring countries, some of them in positions of considerable influence if not of formal, technical power. It is nowhere more true than in Bosnia that without justice there can be no lasting peace. While I understand the juxtaposition of peace and justice mentioned by the hon. Member for Tatton, we must insist that both be pressed for as rapidly as possible.

There can be no lasting peace without justice--an issue to which the British Government must attach the highest priority and one which I was glad to have the opportunity to discuss last week when I met Judge Antonio Cassese. We are, I believe, in the first rank of those helping the tribunal. We have given personnel, resources and evidence, including eye witness reports from British soldiers who served in Bosnia. A British judge, Judge May, has recently been elected to the panel of tribunal judges.

I must emphasise, however, that responsibility for capturing indictees and handing them over to the tribunal must rest with the Governments of the region. There can be no ambiguity or doubt about that, and their failure so far to do so is deplorable. We have increased the pressure on those Governments. As a result of decisions taken at Sintra, the international community will blacklist any municipality in which war crimes indictees hold public office and we shall work with our EU partners to implement a comprehensive travel ban on anyone having dealings with such persons. We shall also look for other ways of pressing those Governments to live up to their international obligations--for example, none will achieve their ambitions for closer relations with NATO or the European Union until they have done so.

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Hon. Friends have mentioned the role of SFOR. While I repeat for the third time that it must be the responsibility of the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina and their neighbours to deliver indictees to the tribunal, SFOR troops will detain and transfer to the tribunal any indicted person with whom they come into contact in the course of their duties--provided, of course, that the tactical situation permits.

Mr. Dalyell rose--

Mr. Lloyd: Perhaps my hon. Friend will allow me to continue as I may be about to answer his question.

The London conference in December last year asked the steering board to consider what more could be done to bring indictees to justice. We are following up that remit vigorously, in consultation with our allies. For obvious reasons, it would not be acceptable for me to comment further and no one here would expect me to do so. However, I must tell my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow that any action to get war criminals to The Hague must, of course, ensure the safety of SFOR troops and other members of the international community.

Mr. Dalyell: I do not expect my hon. Friend to reply off the top of his head as this is basically a defence matter, but on the subject of SFOR troops and their safety some of us feel very strongly that the heavy armour must be retained in Bosnia. We must remember the experience of the Sappers, some of whom were taken hostage. To make the point, especially to the Serbs, the heavy tanks--the Challengers--have to be there.

Mr. Lloyd: My hon. Friend will forgive me as I am simply not qualified to give him a direct response, but I can say that the security of our own troops is very high on any list of priorities that we would draw up. All hon. Members who have spoken have paid tribute to the role of the British troops serving in Bosnia, and I agree with that sentiment. As part of our recognition of that, we have an obligation to ensure that the safety of the troops figures highly on our list of priorities.

On the question of human rights more generally, a decision was taken at last December's London conference to make a sizeable increase in the number of the international police task force expressly so as to allow that force a greater role in investigating human rights abuses. That was a welcome step and has now been confirmed by a United Nations Security Council resolution.

Several hon. Members raised the subject of a possible successor to the stabilisation force currently deployed on the ground in Bosnia. It is too early to say what requirement there will be for a follow-on military presence after SFOR withdraws in June 1998--the key priority now is to focus on achieving as much as we can in the next 12 months--but we have made it clear that we believe that any follow-on force should be NATO led and should involve a sizeable US presence on the ground.

Lastly, we must not lose sight of the regional dimension. The problems of Bosnia are not the only ones in the region: difficulties remain, for example, over the reintegration of eastern Slavonia, the need for progress in Kosovo and the regional refugee crisis. By their very nature, the problems of the region are interrelated and we need a comprehensive regional strategy to address them.

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I should like to make a topical point. A particular matter of concern throughout the region is the question of free media. The elections in Croatia have highlighted continuing problems with state domination of the media there. Last week in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia we welcomed the launch, with UK and international support, of an independent radio network covering much of the country. Attempts by the FRY authorities to suppress independent political reporting must cease. For all the countries in the region, progress in that respect will be a key factor in deciding how their relations with the European Union develop.


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