Bosnia – the unfortunate case of Dragomir Andan

The case of Dragomir Andan – who was, until recently, on hunger strike outside the OHR’s regional office in Banja Luka, in protest against his dismissal three years ago – demonstrates the extent to which the OHR has subverted the rule of law in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

By Matthew Parish and Predrag Raosavljevic

The peoples of the former Yugoslavia have long experiences of authoritarianism. It might have been hoped that in the twenty-first century the region could forget Goli Otok and the Sixth January Dictatorship. Alas it has been Bosnia’s misfortune to find itself the subject of a new form of capricious political authority since 1997. Although extolling the virtues of democratic accountability and rule of law as European Union standards, successive High Representatives have been the embodiment of quite the opposite.

Between 1997 and 2005 OHR took to dismissing public officials without courts, trials, evidence, an opportunity to respond or a right of appeal. Dismissals were coupled with bans from holding any other public office: a severe burden in a country where most good jobs are in the public sector. These bans were expressed to last indefinitely; and the individuals were barred from holding office in a political party. The aim of these draconian techniques was to force Bosnian politicians to go along with the international community’s plans to re-mould the country in an image created abroad: a unified state with a central government that the Dayton Peace Accords never intended to create. The message was clear: if Bosnian officials did not go along with the High Representatives’ agenda, they would be ruined.

In time the chorus of criticism became deafening. Bosnia’s future should not be determined by foreigners; High Representatives should not serve as tin pot dictators. Somebody was listening; and with the arrival of High Representative Christian Schwarz-Schilling in January 2006, suddenly these dismissals stopped. Schwarz-Schilling saw threats and cajoling as counter-productive: sooner or later OHR would have to close, and a sustainable future could not be forged from the furnace of High Representatives’ tyranny. As soon as Schwarz-Schilling delivered this message, Bosnian politicians found themselves unleashed; and there was a dramatic decline in the temper of the country’s political debate. The international community became nervous; it was not sure it wanted Bosnia to plot its own autonomous course bereft of international supervision. Schwarz-Schilling became a scapegoat for the international community’s loss of nerve; and in July 2007, barely 18 months after he arrived, he was fired and replaced by Miroslav Lajcak.

Lajcak’s first priority was to reassert the powers of the High Representative, and get a grip on what the international community perceived as Bosnia’s rapidly deteriorating political climate. The first victim of OHR’s renewed assertiveness was Mr Dragomir Andan, who until recently has been on hunger strike outside the front door of OHR Banja Luka. Mr Andan held the obscure position of Deputy Head of Administration for Police Education in the Ministry of Interior or Republika Srpska. He was not a major political figure; before he was dismissed, nobody had heard of him. The tired reason given for his removal was familiar to many of those who previously felt the High Representatives’ wrath: Mr Andan, while “in a position of responsibility, contributed to shielding war crimes indictees from justice”. It is not clear how being a deputy for the administration of police education meant Mr Andan could help shield Karadzic, Mladic or Hodzic. Indeed Mr Lajcak offered no explanation for this bizarre conclusion. Mr Lajcak fired Mr Andan only 10 days after arriving in the country. He could have had no time to exercise independent judgment on the matter. His staff no doubt had this order pre-prepared, in particular his aggressive Principal Deputy Raffi Gregorian. They pushed it upon Mr Lajcak in his early days in office. It is testament to his weakness of character that he acceded to this pressure so soon into his new position.

The punishment imposed upon Mr Andan was novel in its cruelty. The police were instructed by Mr Lajcak to investigate unspecified allegations of wrongdoings, and to seize his identity documents until those investigations were concluded. This arcane punishment meant Mr Andan could not travel or even perform basic daily tasks. Without an identity card or passport, citizens cannot open a bank account, obtain a driving license, claim social security benefits or even register a child’s birth. Petrified of suffering the same fate as Mr Andan, the police dared not ever conclude the investigation they had been instructed to commence. More than three years later Mr Andan remains deprived of his identity, robbed of a career in the police and unable to travel.

This pitiless conduct had a political aim: to reassert the authority of the High Representatives after a lull. Ultimately it did not work: Mr Lajcak lost a confrontation with Mr Dodik over OHR’s attempt to change voting in the Council of Ministers in late 2007, and Mr Lajcak seldom used his powers again. His successor Mr Inzko has dismissed virtually nobody. Indeed he has taken to rehabilitating individuals dismissed by his predecessors: a welcome stage in Bosnia’s progress away from an international protectorate to a modern sovereign democracy. Yet Mr Andan’s case, perhaps the most egregious of all High Representatives’ abuses of power, remains outstanding.

We know nothing of Mr Andan and cannot pass judgment on him either way. But if evidence exists that he has committed a crime, OHR should make that evidence public and should ask the local authorities to prosecute him. If found guilty, he will be punished for his misdeeds. Mr Andan will then be given an opportunity to answer the allegations against him. Currently he cannot do so, because neither he nor anyone else outside OHR knows what those allegations are.

If however no evidence exists (as seems likely after three years of inconclusive investigation), Mr Andan should be released from his torment. That is how the rule of law works in a modern European democracy, and OHR has no business subverting these basic standards of human rights in a country whose history has seen too much repression and dictatorship. Messrs Lajcak and Gregorian have moved on, and Mr Inzko can do the right thing without losing face. After he has done so, he should finish the task long overdue and close his organisation as well. In its treatment of Mr Andan OHR has proved itself morally bankrupt and utterly out of place in modern Europe.

The authors are lawyers based in Geneva and Banja Luka. Both formerly worked for the Office of the High Representative, Mr Parish as Head of the Legal Department in OHR Brcko and Mr Raosavljevic as legal officer in OHR Banja Luka.

Mr. Parish’s book on international intervention in post-war Bosnia, ‘A Free City in the Balkans: Reconstructing a Divided Society in Bosnia (International Library of War Studies)‘, is published by I.B.Tauris.

This article originally appeared in Nezavisne Novine on Thursday 7th October 2010. You can read the original version by clicking here.

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