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Dayton Peace Agreement: 25 years later, what legacy for Bosnia?

21.11.2020 ( Last modified: 20.11.2020 )

Exactly 25 years ago, on 21 November 1995, the Dayton Peace Agreement put an end to the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was also the moment when the whole range of wartime horrors came to light. Genocide, ethnic cleansing, torture: the country now had to face the horrific crimes that had marked the conflict. And it also needed to learn how to bring the perpetrators and many victims together. But this date also marks the beginning of the division – not only of the different entities that constitute the state, but also of society – that the country is currently experiencing. Legal expert Lejla Gačanica reflects on this milestone in Bosnian history.

The Dayton Peace Agreement marked the end of the war in BiH, as well as the country’s division. © U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Brian Schlumbohm

Today, the process of social, economic and political transition initiated by the Dayton Agreements is still not complete. And this despite the fact that, at the same time, ethnic entities have been built, polarised and empowered. “It is often said that the peace agreement has in fact frozen the conflict”, said Lejla Gačanica, a legal expert at ForumZFD and author of the op-ed. The divisions that served as foundations for the war have become constituencies, institutional divisions; they are presented as tools to preserve the “vital national interest”.

At a time when revisionist rhetoric is flourishing in public debate and denial of past crimes is on the rise, however, there are signs of appeasement that are encouraging for the prospect of peacebuilding. These include the recent decisions of UN bodies (Committee against Torture, CEDAW), often in close connection with the work of civil society organisations. EU accession negotiations, and the conditions set by the EU, could be an additional driver for BiH to accelerate its struggling transitional justice process.

 

Read Lejla Gačanica’s full op-ed

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