Brcko Arbitration Statement
by Roberts B. Owen
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 5 March 1999
When the Dayton Accords were signed in late 1995, they left open for later
international arbitration the difficult question as to the governance of the Brcko
municipality in northeastern Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although both the Federation of
Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska have sought exclusive
control of the area, the Tribunal has now decided on a neutral solution: the
pre-war Brcko municipality (or opstina), which Dayton left divided between the
two entities, is now to reassembled as a self-governing 'neutral district'.
This solution is designed primarily to further the Dayton goal of allowing all
war-time displaced persons and refugees to return to their original homes. Although the
international community has pressed for significant returns to and
from the Brcko area, those international efforts have been seriously obstructed
by local nationalist groups. To remove the obstruction, control of the region
will be placed in the hands of a new multiethnic district government under
intensified international supervision and beyond the control of either entity.
Some of the highlights of the decision are these:
- Since Dayton the northeastern portion of the Brcko municipality (opstina) has
been temporarily a part of RS territory, while the southern portion has been
Federation territory. Both portions will now be held by both entities on a 'con-
dominium' basis, so that the territories of the two entities will overlap
throughout this new district, although both must surrender control to the new
District government. Thus all territories within Bosnia and Herzegovina will
continue to be assigned to one entity, or the other, or both.
The new government will be democratic and multiethnic. Like other regions in
Bosnia and Herzegovina, it will be subject to BiH sovereignty and the authority
of the BiH central institutions.
The change being ordered by the Tribunal will take place over time, on a
schedule to be determined by the International Supervisor.
The IEBL will remain in place until such time as the Supervisor concludes it
has ceased to have any legal significance. The law applicable in the RS and Federation
territories will continue to apply until such time as they have been revised and
All law enforcement will be in the hands of a new multiethnic, democratically
orientated District police force that will be independent of any ÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÔ
The new force will be gradually phased in under direction from the Supervisor,
and entity military forces will be gradually phased out.
For the time being, Federation law and Republika Srpska law will continue to
apply in the District as before. Any inconsistencies will be eliminated under
The Tribunal has emphasized that the new District arrangement will not impede
any legitimate movement through the Brcko area. Freedom of movement will be
guaranteed, and military transit will be permitted under SFOR regulation.
The territorial continuity of the RS will be ensured
The Tribunal's decision places new obligations on both entities to move towards Dayton's
goals, treating both entities on essentially equal terms. Both
entities will be paying some price for their failure to comply with the Dayton
Accords and the Tribunal's earlier rulings.
The Tribunal emphasizes that the creation of the new District government has
been necessitated primarily by the failure of hard-line nationalist party members to comply with earlier Tribunal and supervisory orders and their continuing
efforts to impede the two-way return of war-time displaced persons and refugees
to their original homes. Without RS Prime Minister Dodik's pro-Dayton efforts
during the past year, the Tribunal might have been obligated to award Brcko out-
right to the Federation.
The Tribunal also emphasizes the importance it places on Serb returns to the
Federation, particularly Sarajevo. It supports strong action by the international community if the Federation fails to comply with its obligations in this
Given past non-compliance, the Award provides for severe penalties for future
non-compliance. If one party seriously obstructs implementation, the Tribunal
will retain authority to place the District under the exclusive control of the
entity that is complying.
Office of the High Representative