Bowing to pressure from NATO and the United States, Bosnian Serbs freed 16 civilians Thursday who had entered Serb-held territory after NATO forces had declared roads in Bosnia open to all.
Three men had bruises and said they were beaten when they were detained. Others were robbed. The rest had no complaints about how they were treated by the Serbs - but said their experiences proved it was still too dangerous to travel unescorted through Serb-held territory.
“I won’t dare to take the route through Ilidza again,” said Adil Spahic, a 44-year-old truck driver who had bruises on his face.
Yet another obstacle to free movement around Bosnia arose Thursday when Bosnian Croats began taxing trucks carrying humanitarian aid. The measure prompted the U.N. relief agency to suspend aid convoys to central Bosnia.
For the international forces enforcing peace, the 16 detentions exposed an embarrassing rift between military and civilian officials over who is responsible for the safety of civilians.
The Dayton peace agreement guarantees freedom of movement in Bosnia, but military officials have insisted that local police and international civil authorities must oversee it.
However, only 100 of the planned 2,000-strong U.N. civilian police force have even arrived yet in Bosnia, and the official who oversees them, Carl Bildt, said his unarmed police could not be expected to fulfill that mission.