Balkan Peace Team

Article in The Broken Rifle No 29, 1994.

Open Eyes in Croatia

Otvorene Oči — "Open Eyes", the Balkan Peace Team in Croatia — is setting up base in Split as well as Zagreb. At the conclusion of their initial two-month exploration, the team proposed to base a team in Split because of the need for independent international human rights monitors there, in order to support the struggling local human rights activists, and with a view to a later expansion of Balkan Peace Team projects into Bosnia-Herzegovina. During its exploratory period, one of the team's actions in Split was to observe preliminary hearings of the Dalmatia Action trial, where members of the opposition Dalmatia Action stand accused of bombing their own office. The team produced the only reliable impartial report on the trial.

Otvorene Oči will also retain its base in Zagreb so it can pursue cases with central government and be open to developments in other parts of Croatia.

For some months, activists in the Anti-War Campaign of Croatia have had a strong desire for an international nonviolent presence in Split. At the moment, the situation is somewhat calmer than it was at the end of last year; if it does flare up again, however, the team will have done the groundwork necessary to respond quickly and effectively.

Kosovo Exploration mission

The Balkan Peace Team's original project was to send a team of international volunteers to Kosovo. Last year, however, several other international teams were expelled from Kosovo, and the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe mission had to leave when the Yugoslav government would not permit an extension of their mandate.

This April, the Balkan Peace Team sent a three-person team to Belgrade and Prishtine to see if the project could now be advanced. Although in broad terms, the situation in Kosovo remains as intractable as ever, there have been some significant changes in the past year. The paramilitary leader Arkan has left Prishtine, at least for the time being. If there is less police violence in Prishtine itself, the Council for the Defence of Human Rights has documented more incidents of violence in villages. The independent Albanian-run Mother Theresa clinics are now treating Serbian patients (perhaps ten a week) and delivering medicines to Serbian-run official clinics. Interest in Kosovo in democratic opposition circles in Belgrade has increased, and a series of dialogues are underway between intellectuals from Belgrade and Kosovo. At the same time, certain prominent Kosovo political figures — including former Social-Democratic Party leader Shkelzen Maliqi, former Parliamentary Party leader Veton Surroi, and former LDK board member Rexhep Ishmajli, all strong advocates of nonviolent methods — have left party politics.

The exploratory group saw a strong potential for an international team whose purpose would be to identify possibilities for dialogue. Team members working in different fields — with refugees, with children, with women, with computers, with educators, with religious communities — could function as useful independent go-betweens in the two communities.

Despite being in Yugoslavia in the week of the air strikes around Gorazde, the exploratory group were granted a two-hour session with a senior ambassador in the Yugoslav Ministry of Foreign Affairs (he is also one of the co-authors of the Serbian constitution). The BPT proposed a three-month pilot project and was told that "this is not the time for any international project, but in three months the situation might have changed". Therefore the BPT is going ahead and planning to set up a pilot project in Kosovo in August or September. Additional women volunteers are needed for this.

Wanted: Project Coordinator

for international volunteers' project working for human rights and dialogue in the Balkans. Low salary and high expectations: very good English, skills in office organisation, fundraising, team work, supervision of volunteers, commit to nonviolence. Place of work: to be negotiated, preferably London/GB or Minden/Germany. For Germans: ABM-Berechtigung von Vorteil. Enquiries by end of June, application deadline 15 July.

Please circulate this advert with the BPT address (see below).

URGENT: Volunteers Needed

Volunteers are needed for the Balkan Peace Team. They should have a commitment to nonviolence and be willing to do an unpaid peace service for at least half of a year. They should be good team workers, able to deal with stress, and would be required to take part in preparatory training sessions. Their common language will be English but they will be expected to learn the basics of the local language(s).

The project will pay the cost of their stay (accommodation and food), and during the time of their service the volunteers will receive pocket money. Volunteers are expected to find a support group back at home which will cover their travel costs and contribute to the pocket money, as well as giving the necessary personal and political support to the volunteer. For an application form, contact the BPT (address below).

Alarm network

The Balkan Peace Team is building up a network of groups and individuals willing to respond in the event of an alert from one of the teams. Members of the network can define their own level of response by completing a form available from the BPT office.

Funds for the Balkan Peace Team

The Balkan Peace Team is an important project not only in the areas where it is working but for the development of well-informed methods of nonviolent civilian intervention. The project was initiated by the Bund für Soziale Verteidigung and War Resisters' International, and has become a European priority for the International Fellowship of Reconciliation and Peace Brigades International. It also involves other peace groups in France and Germany — more member organisations would be welcome. Financial support for the project can be sent directly to the project bank account in Germany or, where this is more convenient, to WRI financial agents (marked "BPT").

Howard Clark

[The Balkan Peace Team was dissolved in 2001.  Barbara Müller has written a study on BPT, published in English and German. See]

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