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January 31, 1994
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 123
Refugees in Serbia

A Cheap Gift

by Uros Komlenovic

An explanation for a startling information that Zajecar, Novi Pazar and Belgrade are, judging by the slip, situated in the Serb Republic in BH is missing, but there are detailed instructions at the back as to how many towels and pieces of underwear should be brought. What's also interesting is an included piece of advice which says that those who stand in the way of patriotic dues being met (such as mothers, sisters, wives, friend or pacifist organizations) must be reported to either military or police authorities right away. A warning in big letters is printed at the end, ``Whoever fails to respond will be subject to prosecution and arrest.'' It is not specified what police will arrest disobedient subjects of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic but one can assume that it will be the Serbian Ministry of the Interior. Reports from Montenegro say that the situation there is similar.

It is interesting that the conscription slips are distributed in the refugee camps by officers of the Yugoslav Army, clerks in the municipal secretariats for defense, and military police, who relay warnings that those who refuse to sign the slip will lose a refugee status and be put into an army prison before being shipped across the Drina River. The problematic cases will be examined by the Bosnian Serb authorities. In a nutshell, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia only delivers, and the Serb Republic in BH decides.

Naturally, the people in the refugee camps are easiest to approach but those who have sought private refuge, without applying for the refugee status, have not been forgotten either. The conscription slips from the municipal army offices have arrived at their addresses, too. Army couriers are frighteningly well informed: they managed to find both those who were registered with the Red Cross, but not the police, and those who were not registered anywhere.

Those in charge of the SOS hotline for the victims of discrimination claim that the international documents on human rights and rights of refugees are thus being violated. The Council for human rights of the Center for AntiWar Actions (that runs the SOS hotline) has launched an initiative which should establish whether the Serbian law on refugees is in accordance with the constitution.

``It is stipulated under Article 2 of this law which was passed in April 1992 that the refugees are subject to military and working duty under the same conditions as the citizens of the Republic of Serbia,'' said Biljana KovacevicVuco, the legal expert at the Council for human rights. ``The law is therefore in collision with the federal law on the army according to which it is only the citizens of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia who are subject to military duty.''

A new wave of mobilization could have been anticipated after Karadzic threatened with a total war in case the Muslims refused to sign the peace plan. An announced amnesty of Bosnian Serb deserters if they put on the uniforms until February 16 along with reports of subdued complaints by Bosnian Serb Army Commander, General Ratko Mladic, that the Serbs have not been able to move the front lines recently, represent a reminder of a constant problem Serb units have been wrestling with in Bosniaa shortage of cannon fodder. On the other hand, the Serbs still have significant supremacy in arms. However, military equipment is useless if there are no people to handle it. The Serbs have fewer men than the Muslims on all fronts in Bosnia. The Army of BH admitted to having 48,000 fighters in Sarajevo, while the number of Serbs on the surrounding hills is several times smaller. The announced Serb offensive which should force the Muslim to sign some sort of accord is not feasible with the number of men currently available and Karadzic in all likelihood had to turn to Belgrade for help. Fully aware that the Yugoslav Army cannot be openly engaged on the Bosnian front, Milosevic seems to have offered a cheap but useful gift to his protege the refugees.

There are plenty of convenient locations for dying. One only has to find enough people. The refugees are the first to go, but as it is certain that the number of those who might take the bait will not be sufficient for the ongoing operations. The Bosnian born citizens of Serbia and Montenegro may just as well find themselves in danger, too.

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