From Academic Kids

Missing image
Pocket badge of the UNPROFOR

The United Nations Protection Force, UNPROFOR, were the primary UN peacekeeping troops in Croatia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Yugoslav wars. They served between February 1992 and March 1995.

The UNPROFOR was composed of nearly 39,000 personnel, 320 of which were killed on duty. It was composed of troops from Argentina, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Ghana, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Lithuania, Malaysia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Russian Federation, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States and Venezuela.

In French, the name was FORPRONU (FORce de PROtection des Nations Unies).

The commanders of the UNPROFOR were

Prominent officers :



UNPROFOR was created by Resolution 743 of the UN Security Council (21 February 1992, [1] (http://daccess-ods.un.org/TMP/3948392.html))

The initial mandate of the UNPROFOR was to ensure conditions for peace talks, and security in three demilitarised "safe-heaven" enclaves ("United Nations Protected Areas" UNPAs) located in the former Yugoslav republic of Croatia: Eastern Slavonia, Western Slavonia and Krajina. They were places with strong Serb populations that had organized into the self-styled Republic of Serbian Krajina, which had led to tensions and fights.

In 1992, the mandate was extended to so-called "pink zones" controlling access to the UNPAs (resolution 762 [2] (http://daccess-ods.un.org/TMP/7907744.html)), some border control and monitoring of civilian access to the Pink Zones (Resolution 769), and control of the demilitarization of the Prevlaka Peninsula near Dubrovnik (Resolution 779).

Other extensions of the mandate include protection Sarajevo airport from June 1992 (Resolution 758), and, from September 1992, protection for humanitarian aid in the whole Bosnia and Herzegovina, and protection of civilian refugees when required by the ICRC (Resolution 770).

UNPROFOR was in charge of air interdiction for military aircrafts in the Bosnia and Herzegovina airspace (as ordered by the UN Security Council), in coordination with NATO forces (air interdiction missions were the first use of force by NATO).

It also monitored Bihac, Sarajevo, Gorazde, Zepa, Srebrenica and Tuzla, which were defined as "security zones" by the UN Security Council. UNPROFOR was authorised to use force to protect these zones if necessary, in coordination with NATO air forces. This was later extended to parts of Croat territories.

Eventually, UNPROFOR monitored cease-fires in Bosnia in February 1994 and january 1995.

On the 31st of March 1995, UNPROFOR was restructured into three coordinated peace operations.


February 1992- March 1993

Missing image
A Warrior vehicle with UN markings, on the making of the eponymous film.

The first mandate of the UNPROFOR was 12 month long. At the end of the first mandate, the UNPROFOR had had some success in restoring peace in Croatia, notably obtaining a removal of the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA). However, civil unrest was such that terror, discrimination and "ethnic cleansing" were still present. The situation was problematic mostly because of the non-cooperation of local Serb authorities, and because of later major Croat military offensives. Additionally, the situation for which the UNPROFOR had been designed had significantly changed. The Croat part now refused to negotiate its sovereignty on the UNPAs and Pink Zones, which the Serb part would not accept. Apparition of the so-called "Republic of Serbian Krajina" further complicated the situation.

In spite of hostile actions, Sarajevo international airport had successfully been maintained open. In the period from 3 July 1992 to 31 January 1993, the humanitarian airlift organized by UNHCR under UNPROFOR protection brought in 2,476 aircraft carrying 27,460 tons of food, medicines and other relief goods.

Distribution of humanitarian aid was disrupted due to non-cooperation and even hostile actions (mines, small arms fire, RPG) of the parties on the field, especially from the Bosnian Serb forces. Nonetheless, from November 1992 to January 1993, a total of some 34,600 tons of relief supplies had been delivered to an estimated 800,000 beneficiaries in 110 locations throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In January 1993, on the night of the orthodox Christmas, Bosniac troops led by Naser Oric and based in Srebrenica stormed Serbian villages and committed massacre among their population.

March 1993 - February 1994

Croat incursions

On the 6th of July 1993, new tensions arose following the Croat government decision to re-open the Maslenica bridge on 18 July. The UNPROFOR mandated to monitor the withdrawal of Croatian forces from the area had been able to deploy, due to the refusal of access by Croat authorities. The Serbs shelled the bridge which was partially destroyed on the 2nd of August. On the 12th of August, negotiations for a cease-fire began in Geneva, but were unsuccessful. Eventually, Croat forces retreated to their positions of before the incursion, not without systematically destroying houses in the area.

Operation "Deny Flight"

In the mid-March, unidentified airplanes dropped bombs onto villages in the vicinity of Srebrenica violating the "No-Flight zones" for the first time. The Bosnian Serbs were blamed for the bombing but denied. On the 31st of March, a resolution was voted authorizing the nations contributing to the UNPROFOR to take "all necessary measures" to prevent military flights from the belligerents in the no-flight zones ("Operation Deny Flight"). French, Dutch and American airplanes were deployed to enforce the resolution. In total, until the 1st of December 1994, 3317 violations were observed. On the 28th of February 1994, four military aircrafts were shot down by NATO fighters over Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Safe Areas

From March 1993, Serb para-military units on a systematic campaign of terror killed a great number of civilians, destroyed habitations, prevented the UNHCR from delivering humanitarian aid, and forced thousands of Muslim refugees to flee to Srebrenica. 30 or 40 persons were dying daily from military action, starvation, exposure to cold or lack of medical treatment. Resolution 819 attempted to address this issue by declaring Srebrenica a "Safe Area" which should be free from any armed attack or any other hostile act. Resolution 836 expanded the mandate to the UNPROFOR to defending the Safe Area if necessary. To implement the deterrence, around 7600 reinforcements were sent and air support was organised in coordination with NATO.

Unfortunately, the UN force were so poorly equipped and restrictively mandated that they could not even deter Bosnian forces within the "Safe Areas" themselves. Bosnian forces increasingly used the Safe Areas as bases to launch attacks against the Serbs, which infuriated the Serbs, and explains the obstruction by General Mladic against protective measures for the "Safe Areas" [3] (http://www.reseauvoltaire.net/article9988.html).

War in Bosnia

In May 1993, intense fighting broke out in Central Bosnia between Muslims and Croats. Croat para-military forces, whose tie to the authorities was unclear, committed exactions against Serbs and Muslims. The massacre in the village of Ahmići, on the 16th of April 1993, is an example of the savagery of the terror [4] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/603420.stm) [5] (http://www.un.org/icty/transe14/971110ed.htm). Tihomir Blaškić was the officer of the Croat HVO army formation who was tried and convicted at the ICTY over his responsibility for this massacre. Blaškić served almost nine years in prison before the appeals panel acquitted him of most of the charges in July 2004, as the defense proved that he did not command all the HVO units in the area or any paramilitary units [6] (http://www.un.org/icty/glance/blaskic.htm).

On 24 September, the Security Council was informed by the Croatian Government that if the mandate of UNPROFOR was not amended to promote energetic implementation of the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, Croatia would be forced to request UNPROFOR to leave the country not later than 30 November 1993. Subsequent redefinition of the mandate occurred.

At the end of the year, the warring parties attempted to come to a cease-fire. The truce was implemented between Croat and Serb forces, but fighting went on in Bosnia between Muslims and Croats, and the humanitarian situations continued to deteriorate. Notably, Sarajevo continued to be bombarded by Bosnian Serb forces. It was also reported that units of the regular Croat army were supporting Bosnian Croat forces with heavy equipments and men, removing their insignias. This led to further protests from the UN. Use of force began to be discussed at a NATO summit held in Brussel on 10 and 11 January 1994. Following the elevation of tone of the UN, the Bosnian Serbs, following talks with high-ranking officials of the Russian Federation in Moscow, agreed to open the Tuzla airport for humanitarian purposes. At the same time, the relieving of UN troops in Srebrenica was allowed and the Canadian contingent was replaced by a Dutch contingent.

Situation in Sarajevo, however, remained extremely tense, with Bosnian Serb sniper fire deliberately aimed at civilians, and artillery and heavy mortar fire aimed at population aeras. This strongly shaped Western public opinion, since a number of journalists were operating in Sarajevo, and murdered civilians were seen in the evening news on a regular basis. On 4 February 1994, a mortar shell fired at a suburb of Sarajevo killed 10 people and wounded 18. The next day, a 120-mm mortar round fired at the central market killed at least 58 civilians and wounded 142 others in the worst single incident of the 22-month war. Exasperation at these provocations grew to the point where an ultimatum was sent, requiring the removal or surrender to the UNPROFOR of all heavy guns 20 km from Sarajevo (Bosnian and Bosnian Serb, with an exception for Pale) within 10 days. The ultimatum was satisfied on the 17th of February, with the heavy weapons not removed begin regrouped in seven UNPROFOR-controlled spots.

In another positive development, on 23 February 1994, a cease-fire was decided between Croat and Bosnian forces.

March 1994 - November 1994

Positive developments and extension of mandate

On 24 March 1994, a plan for the re-opening of the Tuzla airport, for UNPROFOR and humanitarian use only, was published.

On 29 March 1994, in Zagreb, representatives of the Government of Croatia and the local Serb authorities in UNPAs concluded a cease-fire agreement aiming to achieve a lasting cessation of hostilities.

Parallelly, the mandate of the UNPROFOR was extended for another six month, and reinforcements were sent, amounting to 10,000 troops and a few hundred policemen and observers.

Assault against Safe Areas

Shortly after the cease-fire between Croat and Serb forces, the Bosnian Serbs launched an assault against the Safe area of Gorazde, heavily shelling the town and surrounding villages. Protests and exhortations from the UN Security Council turned out to be ineffective, and on 10 and 11 April 1994, NATO launched air strikes against Bosnian Serb positions. However, these bombings turned out to be much less effective than the recent Gulf War, which had conditionned the public understanding of air strikes. In spite of the demonstration of power of the NATO, and protests of good faith from the Serbs, the shelling continued. In a similar situation as what had happened in Sarajevo, an ultimatum was issued, and by the 24th, most of the Serb troops had complied. These incidents led to another reflection about the status of the Safe Areas.

Attempts at designing a Peace Plan

Several Peace Plans had been rejected ( the Carrington-Cutiliero plan, the Vance-Owen plan, the "HMS Invincible" package, the European Union Action Plan). At the end of July, a blueprint was designed by the Contact Group, which was accepted by the Croat, the Serb and the Bosnian parties. The Bosnian Serbs, however, refused the plan. In early August, in an attempt to coerce the Bosnian Serbs into accepting the plan, the Serbian government cut political and economical relationships with the Bosnian Serb leaders. This decision was welcomed by the UN Security Council. On the 23 September, the UN Security Council officially welcomed the agreement of the warring parties to the peace plan, condemned the Bosnian Serb refusal, and strengthened the sanctions against the Bosnian Serb entity.

Bosnian Serb isolation

On the 23 of September 1994, in retaliation to the Bosnian Serb obstruction to the Peace Plan, the Security Council, by its resolution 942, basically severed all commercial and monetary links to the Bosnian Serb entity. Notably, this cut the flow of fuel to the Bosnian Serbs, a hard strategic blow.

Due to the extreme position taken by the Bosnian Serb government, the Yugoslav Federation (Serbian and Montenegro) itself had to take a strong stance against the Bosnian Serb entity. This led to the quasi-complete diplomatic isolation of the Bosnian Serb entity.

Deterioration in Security

In August 1994, the situation deteriorated again, particulary due to sniper activity, and despite the anti-sniper agreements. In Sarajevo, the bloody "Sniper Alley" became famous and infamous [7] (http://www.friends-partners.org/bosnia/sniper.html). Deliberate attacks against UNPROFOR personnel or aircraft became frequent.

In October, the Bosnian Croat forces attacked the Bosnian Serb forces trapped in the Bihać pocket. The attack and the ensuing counter-attack by the Bosnian Serbs induced terror in the local population and another massive exodus of refugees. In deliberate contradiction with the "Safe Area" status of Bihać and the "No-flight" zones, Bosnian Serb airplanes made repeated attacks in the Bihać area, using cluster bombs and napalm.

In reaction to this threat, on the 21st of November, NATO airplanes destroyed the Udbina airstrip, located in the UNPA Sector South in Croatia. The following days, NATO airplanes again had to intervene, against Bosnian Serb anti-air missiles site which had opened fire upon British jets, and against artillery sites which shelled Bihać. Instead of lowering their profile, the Bosnian Serbs retaliated by taking UN personnel hostage and restraining humanitarian aid transit.

On the diplomatic scene, all efforts to come to a cease-fire turned out to be to no avail, here again mostly because of Bosnian Serb obstruction -- Dr. Karadžić declined the invitation of the UN Secretary-General.

The Fall of Srebrenica (7th of July 1995)

See Srebrenica_Massacre for more details

The United Nations failed to deter the Serb attack on Srebrenica and the appalling events that followed Peacekeeping Best Practices Unit (PBPU) report (http://pbpu.unlb.org/PBPU/Download.aspx?docid=339)

The massacre was not followed by any particular military reaction from the UN force, which later led NATO to abandon dual-key arrangements and initiate "Operation Deliberate Force" in response to further provocations by Serb forces.

UN Hostages and the Vrbanja bridge

The Serbs proceeded to retrieve their confiscated heavy weapons from the UN controlled concentration points by force. French peace-keepers, massively out-numbered, had to surrender after brief symbolic fights.

On the 27th of May, General Mladic launched an assault against the UN observation point of the Vrbanja bridge. At 5 in the morning, the commanding officer lost contact with the 12 men and went to investigate. A Serb dressed with a blue helmet and UN body armour attempted to take him hostage but was deterred by the escort. In the following hours, the French stormed the post, killing four people and capturing four others.

At 12, the Bosnian Serb radio broadcast that General Mladic had ordered to

"deploy the captured members of the UNPROFOR, and the other foreign citizens who had acted as enemies of the Serbian people, at command posts, depots and other important facilities."
"The United Nations in this particular situation have decided to hire a murderer, it is called the NATO alliance. It is a hired killer. If NATO wishes to continue with its air strikes then it will have to kill the UN troops here on the ground, because we have positioned UN troops and observers around potential targets that NATO might decide to go for. The international community therefore will have to pay a very heavy price. And it will not stop at that. The Serbs are determined to make a point to the whole world." (Jovan Zametica, Karadzic's spokesman)

Perception in participating countries

In spite of the valour and gallantry of the women and the men who served in the UNPROFOR, the mission turned out to be a bitter duty, mainly because its mandate was ill-defined, or at least turned out to be inadequate with the realities of the field (" meant to keep the peace where no peace existed"). It was deliberately obstructed from the warring parties.

The situation of the field was complex, notably due to the fact that there were three warring parties, and numerous para-military units, responsible for the most atrocious exations, and outside of the regular chain of commands. Also, most of the parties would use ambiguous tactics. For instance (and not exhaustively) :

  • the Bosnian Serbs would use massive shelling of villages for their "ethnic cleansing", while alleging their good faith.
  • General Mladic has ordered the shelling of a sector near the Sarajevo airport, while he was on official visit, on the express purpose of appearing heroic in front of the French Blue helmets and to cast doubts as to who was responsible for the bombardment.
  • The Bosnian party would use the Safe Areas to the best of the tactical situation to storm Serb positions or villages.
  • In Sarajevo, the Bosnians deliberately cut water, gas and electricity supply lines so that the situation would stay bad enough to appear on news televisions [8] (http://www.reseauvoltaire.net/article9991.html).
  • In numerous occasions, small groups of one of the warring parties would progress between enemy positions and UN positions and open fire on the Blue helmets in the hope of triggering a response from the UN troops.
  • In the event of the Srebrenica massacre, which triggered a number of investigations to determine the reasons for the failure of the UN to deter Serbian forces to storm the town, accusations have been made, notably by General Morillon, that the Serbs actually fell in a propaganda trap used by the Bosnians to reinforce their image of victims and blur their use of Safe Areas as bases. Morillon said that he though the hatred of the Serbs toward the populations of Srebrenica had been largely underestimated by all parties, and the massacre could be explained as a loss of control of the Serbian hierarchy upon some of its troops.

A great deal of resentment and frustration arose in the participating countries, especially in those whose troops had been in contact with the most outrageous situations; for instance (and not exclusively)

  • the involvement of the British battalion, especially concerning the Ahmici massacre, has inspired the film Warriors by the BBC
  • the involvement of the Dutch battalion in Srebrenica inspired The_Enclave.
  • the general situation in Sarajevo inspired the (somewhat Manichean and simplistic) comic Sarajevo Tango, by Hermann (See samples [9] (http://www.hinternet.de/comic/s/sarajevo.php) [10] (http://www.bedetheque.com/index.php?S=255), [11] (http://www.gallier.be/hermann.htm))
  • the attack against French Blue Helmets by Serb forces disguised as French UN Troops on the bridge of Vrbanja [12] (http://www.iwpr.net/index.pl?archive/war/war_43_199607_07.txt).
  • the taking of hostages amongst UN peace-keeping personnel when Bosnian Serb forces proceeded to retrieve their heavy weapons from UN controlled regroupement points by force.
  • Systematic rape of Muslim women by Serb forces
  • Particulary moving episodes, such as the "Sarajevo's Romeo and Juliet" [13] (http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/Bosnia/updates/9604/10/), inevitable in any conflict, but abundantly mediatised.
  • In French, the word "sniper" entered the common vocabulary after "Sniper Alley" became famous, and it quite supplanted the usual words tireur d'élite, tireur embusqué or franc-tireur.

Nevertheless, a doctrine of 'moral equivalence' which portrayed all warring sides as as bad as each other, characterised the Western media's reporting of the conflict. It is technically true that war crimes were committed by all sides during the conflict (as in most wars - in World War 2, for instance, the Allies' firebombing of Dresden is now regarded as an atrocity). However, much as it would be absurd to say that all sides were therefore equally tainted in World War II, neither were they in this war. It is finally clear to most historians and pundits that 1992-5 was essentially a war of aggression pursued by the Serbs and the Bosnian Serbs upon the peaceful, sovereign, and multiethnic nation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and one in which the Croats connived for territorial gain. The failure to put across this fundamental geometry of the conflict, through wilfulness or incomptentence, remains the greatest failure of the Western media and the Western political leadership of the time.

See Also

External links

Further Readings

  • General Philippe Morillon, Paroles de soldat, Balland, 1996
  • General Philippe Morillon, Croire et oser, chronique de Sarajevo, Grasset, 1993

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