Resignation over Bosnia

Author: Tadeusz Mazowiecki
Uploaded: Sunday, 03 November, 2013

Obituaries for the former Polish premier who died last week have devoted at best a cursory sentence to his principled resignation as UN special rapporteur on human rights for the former Yugoslavia. Due remembrance requires us to recall his farewell letter protesting at international inaction after Srebrenica, first published by us in issue 11 of Bosnia Report.

United Nations Office at Geneva
Centre for Human Rights
Palais des Nations
CH 1211 Geneve 10

27 July 1995


His Excellency
Tan Sri Dato' Musa Hitam
Chairman of the Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations

Dear Mr Chairman,

Events in recent weeks in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and above all the fact that the United Nations has allowed Srebrenica and Zepa to fall along with the horrendous tragedy which has beset the population of those 'safe havens' guaranteed by international agreements, oblige me to state that I do not see any possibility of continuing the mandate of special rapporteur entrusted to me by the Commission on Human Rights.

On accepting the mandate which was given to me for the first time in August 1992, I declared unequivocally that my goal would not simply be writing reports but helping the people themselves. The creation of 'safe havens' was from the beginning a central recommendation in my reports. The recent decisions of the London Conference, which accepted the fall of Srebrenica and resigned itself to the fate of Zepa, are unacceptable to me. Those decisions did not create the conditions necessary for the defence of all 'safe havens.'

These events constitute a turning point in the development of the situation in Bosnia. At one and the same time, we are dealing with the struggle of a state, a member of the United Nations, for its survival and multi-ethnic character, and with the endeavour to protect principles of international order. One cannot speak about the protection of human rights with credibility, when one is confronted with the lack of consistency and courage displayed by the international community and its leaders. The reality of the human rights situation today is illustrated by the tragedy of the people of Srebrenica and Zepa.

Human righs violations continue blatantly. There are constant blockades of the delivery of humanitarian aid, the civilian population is shelled remorselessly and 'Blue Helmets' and representatives of humanitarian organisations are dying. Crimes have been committed with swiftness and brutality and by contrast the response of the international community has been slow and ineffectual.

The character of my mandate allows me only to describe further crimes and violations of human rights. But the present critical moment forces us to realise the true character of those crimes, and the responsibility of Europe and the international community for their own helplessness in addressing them. We have been fighting against a totalitarian system in Poland with a vision for the Europe of tomorrow. How can we believe in a Europe of tomorrow created by children of people who are abandoned today?

I would like to believe that the present moment will be a turning point in the relationship of Europe and the world towards Bosnia. The very stability of international order, and the principles of civilisation are at stake over the question of Bosnia. I am not convinced that the turning point hoped for will happen and cannot continue to participate in the pretence of the protection of human rights.

Mr Chairman, please understand the motives behind my decision and convey them to the members of the Commission on Human Rights. I will submit my final eighteenth report based on my recent mission to Tuzla to the Commission in the near future.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.

Tadeusz Mazowiecki

Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights
in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia

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