The top U.S. human rights official traveled to this divided city on Sunday to deliver a stark message to Bosnian Croat leaders: International donors will withhold aid if refugees are prevented from coming home.
But Bosnian Croat officials skipped the meeting with John Shattuck, the assistant secretary of state for human rights. That left him to deliver his message to Mostar’s Muslim leaders, who charge that some Muslim refugees have been unable to return to their homes.
“International donors will deny assistance to those authorities who systematically obstruct the rights of people to return to their homes,” Shattuck said.
“The United States commits all its diplomatic and economic authority to seeing that that process will be completed. We want to make very clear that any authority who tries to obstruct that process will not receive our assistance.”
Mostar was the scene of some of the most bitter fighting during the 1992-3 war between Muslims and Croats in Bosnia, and it remains divided.
After months of tough negotiations brokered by U.S. and other international officials, a joint Muslim-Croat police force began patrolling Mostar on July 21. The deployment of joint patrols should extend across territory that Muslims and Croats share in southern Bosnia. The joint force is designed to decrease tensions and encourage refugees to return to their prewar homes in territories now dominated by another group. But refugee returns have largely been frozen.