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Bosnian Serbs evacuate members of croat and muslim minorities

16-08-1995 News Release 95/40

Geneva (ICRC) - The situation of the Croat and Muslim minorities living on Bosnian Serb-controlled territory has deteriorated sharply over the past few days, as a result of the massive influx of Serb refugees from Croatia and the presence of armed men among the refugee population. Delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have observed numerous cases of abusive behaviour against these minority groups, particularly in the Banja Luka area.

The ICRC has stepped up its approaches to the Bosnian Serb authorities, urging them to restore order and ensure the protection and security of these minorities. Despite the ICRC's efforts, however, the situation has not improved. Thousands of people have been expelled from their homes, and there have been reports of ill-treatment and killings.

At the end of last week, ICRC delegates discussed these matters with representatives of the minority groups and with the parties involved in the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Seeing that all attempts to protect the minorities had failed and that their lives were in danger, the ICRC obtained the Bosnian Serb authorities'permission to hold private interviews with all persons likely to be evacuated, including men who were being prevented from leaving, to check whether they wanted to go and to ensure that families would not be split up in the process.

On 14 August, however, the Bosnian Serb authorities began evacuating hundreds of people from these minority groups to Croatia, without giving the ICRC the opportunity to interview them before their departure as had been agreed, so it has been impossible to verify whether they in fact want to leave. It is a lso feared that more families will be separated by these evacuations. In Prnjavor ICRC delegates have observed that members of minority groups are being threatened and forced by the local authorities to abandon their homes. 

The ICRC is gravely concerned by these latest developments and stresses once again that subjecting civilians to abuse and forcibly displacing the population are contrary to the provisions of international humanitarian law. The ICRC calls on the Bosnian Serb authorities to put an end to these violations, and reaffirms that it is ready to interview people likely to be evacuated so as to ensure that their departure can take place in decent and reasonably safe conditions.