Friday, April 13, 2007

Bosnia Revokes Soldier Citizenships

Taken from Al-Jazeera News Agency, April 11, 2007

Bosnia has revoked the citizenships of hundreds of Muslim volunteers who came to fight in its 1992 to 1995 war, a move seen as part of an anti-terrorism drive requested by the United States.

A Bosnian Muslim soldier is greeted by a woman

The citizenships had been awarded to foreigners who fought alongside Bosnian Muslims against Bosnian Croats and Serbs.

Washington had called for them to be deported during the late 1990s and again after the September 11 attacks.

Barisa Colak, the country’s justice minister, said: "Of the 367 who were stripped of Bosnian citizenship, most come from Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, Syria, Tunisia, Sudan and Russia."

Appeals allowed
Colak said a state commission had found that their citizenships were illegally issued and would be revoked immediately.

He said all the men would be able to appeal against the ruling before facing deportation.

The minister did not say what criteria had not been met in the citizenship process, or whether the men were suspected of links to terrorism, as local media had speculated.

A further 349 men had passed the review over the past year, Colak said, and the commission would need another year to examine all the cases.

Most of the volunteers who stayed in Bosnia after the war married local women, and many now live in Islamic communities in remote rural areas.

Human rights activists and associations of war veterans say the government decision violates the rights of the former soldiers

They argue that the men will now be separated from their Bosnian families and may even end up in prison in their countries of origin.

Political decision
Serif Patkovic, a former army commander from the central town of Zenica, now home to about 60 per cent of the former fighters, said the decision was political.

Patkovic said: "These people have won honours for their participation in the war and we shall defend them with all legal means. Some of them are invalids, they have wives and children to support here."

He said the state court had already overruled one case of revoked citizenship and appeals in other cases were under way.

Syrian-born Aiman Awad, chairman of the Ensaria Association of Naturalised Citizens, also criticised the process.

Awad, who had lived in the region since 1982, said: "I fulfilled all conditions for the citizenship. They want to revoke it only because I was a member of El Mujaheed brigade [an army unit of Islamic fighters]."

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