The Bosnian War was an international armed conflict that took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 6 April 1992 and 14 December 1995. The main belligerents were the forces of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and those of the self-proclaimed Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat entities within Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republika Srpska and Herzeg-Bosnia, who were led and supplied by Serbia and Croatia respectively.
The war came about as a result of the breakup of Yugoslavia. Following the Slovenian and Croatian secessions from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1991, the multi-ethnic Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was inhabited by Muslim Bosniaks (44 percent), Orthodox Serbs (31 percent) and Catholic Croats (17 percent), passed a referendum for independence on 29 February 1992. This was rejected by the political representatives of the Bosnian Serbs, who had boycotted the referendum and established their own republic. Following Bosnia and Herzegovina's declaration of independence (which gained international recognition), the Bosnian Serbs, supported by the Serbian government of Slobodan Miloševic and the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), mobilized their forces inside the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to secure Serbian territory, then war soon spread across the country, accompanied by the ethnic cleansing of the Muslim Bosniak and Croat population, especially in eastern Bosnia and throughout the Republika Srpska.
It was principally a territorial conflict, initially between the Serb forces mainly organized in the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) on the one side, and the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ARBiH) which was largely composed of Bosniaks, and the Croat forces in the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) on the other side. The Croats also aimed at securing parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina as Croatian. The Serb and Croat political leadership agreed on a partition of Bosnia with the Karadordevo and Graz agreements, resulting in the Croat forces turning against the ARBiH and the Croat–Bosniak war. The war was characterized by bitter fighting, indiscriminate shelling of cities and towns, ethnic cleansing and systematic mass rape, mainly perpretated by Serb, but to a lesser extent, Croat and Bosniak forces. Events such as the Siege of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica massacre later became iconic of the conflict.
The Serbs, although initially superior due to the weapons and resources provided by the JNA, eventually lost momentum as the Bosniaks and Croats allied themselves against the Republika Srpska in 1994 with the creation of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina following the Washington agreement. After the Srebrenica and Markale massacres, NATO intervened in 1995 with Operation Deliberate Force targeting the positions of the Army of the Republika Srpska, which proved key in ending the war. The war was brought to an end after the signing of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina in Paris on 14 December 1995. Peace negotiations were held in Dayton, Ohio, and were finalized on 21 December 1995. The accords are now known as the Dayton Agreement. According to a report compiled by the UN, and chaired by M. Cherif Bassiouni, while all sides committed war crimes during the conflict, Serbian forces were responsible for ninety per cent of them, whereas Croatian forces were responsible for six per cent, and Muslim forces four percent. The report echoed conclusions published by a Central Intelligence Agency estimate in 1995. As of early 2008, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia had convicted 45 Serbs, 12 Croats and 4 Bosniaks of war crimes in connection with the war in Bosnia. The most recent figures suggest that around 100,000 people were killed during the war. In addition, an estimated total of 20,000 to 50,000 women, vastly Bosniak, were raped, and over 2.2 million people were displaced, making it the most devastating conflict in Europe since the end of World War II.