Why are Serbs from Glamoc suing the federation?

Military proving ground - A political problem for Serbs.


SAT, 15 JAN 2000

GLAMOC, December 31, 1999 - Eleven people of Serbian nationality who used to live in the Glamoc commune before the war and are temporarily residing in the Republic of Srpska as refugees, have filed charges against the B&H Federation with the B&H Chamber for Human Rights. The reason is violation of private property, i.e. the fact that the Government of the B&H federation has brought a decision on the expropriation (exemption from private property) of their land for the construction of a military proving ground of the Army of the B&H Federation.

Chamber for Human Rights reacted by issuing a decree ordering the Federation of B&H to "refrain from all acts, especially continuation of military drills which cause damages to the real estate property of plaintiffs in the Glamoc commune".

Office of the Ombudsman's Assistant of the B&H Federation in the Livno Canton was informed about this case so that a meeting of Ombudsman's representative with communal officials was held in mid December.

Military proving ground - Centre for Combat Training of members of the B&H Army should cover the area of some 750 square kilometres in four communes: Livno, Glamoc, Tomislav Grad and Kupres. Only 70.22 percent of that ground is state owned, while 29.78 percent is in private hands. The land is divided into 7,360 plots which belong to 2,500 owners, the majority of whom live in the Glamoc commune, i.e. cadastral communes of Stekerovci, Hotkovci, Odzak and Vagan.

The Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, i.e. the Defence Ministry, as the user of land on which the proving ground is located, have violated private property of exiled Serbs from Glamoc who have abandoned this region fleeing before war operations in the summer and autumn of 1995. This was done before real estate owners were contacted and the decision on expropriation became valid.

The decisions of the Federation Government on the exemption of land from private property is based on the 1989 Law on Expropriation of former Yugoslavia and in the opinion of the owners of exempted land this Law is contrary to the Dayton Accords. At the same time, the OSCE Monitoring Mission for the Construction of Combat Training Centre has concluded that the disputable law is "in full accordance with the Dayton Agreement".

The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights from the Republic of Srpska also issued its statement in connection with this case. It condemned such behaviour of the F B&H Government towards land owners in the villages around Glamoc and assessed it to be contrary to both Dayton Accords and the Constitution.

Be that as it may, the first debate with land owners whose property will be expropriated, was organised in the Glamoc commune. Only three owners accepted the invitation. One of them has already signed the Contract on the Exemption of Real Estate from Private Property and accepted the offered amount of financial compensation. The other two were unable to sign such a contract because they were not the sole owners of the mentioned land. A day before this, the OSCE Commission for assisting the determination of compensations held a meeting after inspecting situation on the ground.

According to Petar Kelava, who is in charge of the expropriation procedure and President of the Communal Section for General Affairs in Glamoc, debates on the exemption of private property were organised by the competent communal authority in accordance with the law and with a view to determining adequate compensation. Nevertheless, he claims that "judging by letters and phone calls, there is great interest among land owners have for the expropriation procedure and payment of compensation".

Nevertheless, at the last session of the Communal Council of Glamoc, both Serbian and Bosniac delegates, who are in majority, have voted against the construction of military proving ground on their land, while delegates of Croatian nationality were "in favour".

According to Boza Jovicic, President of the Communal Council, the proving ground is essentially a major political problem, with different meaning for each side - Serbian, Bosniac and Croatian. The Serbs want to prevent the construction of the proving ground by all means and are trying to explain to representatives of the international community that the aim is to obstruct their return and rob the Serbs of their land.

"I can claim with full responsibility that representatives of the Serbian nation in communal authorities will never vote for the offered prices. Namely, in this way the northern part of the Glamoc commune in the length of 50 kilometres would be "amputated". No one could return there. SFOR's military proving ground "Daring Barbara" stretches from Tomislav Grad, over Kupres and Livno all the way to Glamoc and there is not a single Croatian or Bosniac house in that area. There would be no problem for some 700 Serbian families to return to their pre-war homes" said Jovicic.

We talked about the construction of a military proving ground of the Federation Army in the Glamoc Filed and the expropriation of private land with Serbian returnees also. They confirmed that the construction of the proving ground is a political, ethical as well as legal issue and that no one has the right to build a proving ground by depriving the people of their religious monuments and by razing to the ground their graves with steel treads of either Federation Army or NATO tanks.

"As Serbian returnees we have no right to sell to the communal authorities our graves at a price of one German Mark for a square meter of land and we shall not do it", told us our collocutors adding that the President of Communal Council said he would resign if they forced him to sign the communal decree on the amount of compensation of expropriated land.

Concerning this case the CSCE Mission in B&H, Office of the High Representative and the UNHCR also issued a statement. They invited landowners to inform the Glamoc commune of their current place of residence "so that they could submit their demands for financial compensation".

Their joint statement stated that the names of landowners whose property will be expropriated, have already been determined, but that legal owners have abandoned this region during the war and no one knows where they are living now.

"The OSCE Mission in B&H, Office of High Representative and the UNHCR have carefully followed the expropriation procedure which is being carried out in the Glamoc commune in accordance with the duty of securing the rule of law and property rights of refugees and displaced persons", said the statement. It is claimed that the exemption will be carried out in accordance with the Law on Expropriation and the Law on Legal Proceedings, while landowners in question will have the right to demand adequate compensation.

Finally, a possible dilemma whether a wish to return or simply "fuelling" of prices is in question, could be resolved by the F B&H Government. For it has proclaimed the construction of the military proving ground in the Glamoc Field to be in general social interest so that, according to AIM's source from the B&H Defence Ministry, it is possible to enter into possession of the land even before the expropriation decree enters into force.

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