American RadioWorksDocumentariesWorld
The Legacy of Nuremberg  |   Imposing Justice from the Hague  |   Rwanda's Revolutionary Justice

Civil War in Bosnia-Hercegovina

The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina erupted in April, 1993, amid the collapse of Yugoslavia's multi-national federation and following brutal conflicts elsewhere including Croatia and Kosovo. Bosnia was one of six republics in Yugoslavia and ethnically its most diverse: the biggest group was Muslim Slavs, followed by ethnic Serbs (largely Eastern Orthodox) and ethnic Croats (largely Catholics).

Ethnic Composition

By mid-April, 1993, thousands of Muslims were being killed and driven from their homes by Serbian militias seeking to carve out an "ethnically cleansed" Serbian state. Tens of thousands of people would be killed in the course of the three and a half year war and more than one million people would be deported. The war ended with the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995. NATO troops were dispatched to secure the peace. A special UN commission concluded that Serbian actions in Bosnia constituted "genocide" and several Serbian leaders, including former President Slobodan Milosevic, are charged with crimes of genocide by the UN War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.

In 1993, there was a second war in Bosnia— between Croatian militia and the largely Muslim forces of the Bosnian Army. This conflict also saw horrific massacres and wholesale destruction of towns and villages. Both sides were accused of committing war crimes, but the UN tribunal held the Bosnian Croats largely responsible and prosecuted more than 15 people, including senior military and political leaders.

Dayton Peace Accords

Today, Bosnia is divided between the Federation (the area held by the former Croatian and Muslim-dominated armies and militias) and the Serbian Republic, the territory seized by Serbian forces at the beginning of the war. Bosnia is a quasi-democracy, with key decisions made by a foreign diplomat. Thousands of NATO peacekeepers including U.S. soldiers and police are still deployed in Bosnia.

©2018 American Public Media