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news 07 Jun 13

Protesters' Siege of Bosnia Parliament Alarms Serbs

Bosnian Serb politicians say they may stop attending State Parliament sessions in Sarajevo after the recent blockade of the building left them feeling physically endangered.

Elvira M. Jukic

The government of Bosnia's mainly Serbian entity, Republika Srpska, is to hold an extraordinary session to discuss the safety of its officials.

Bosnia Parliament Protests Spread to Other Towns

Around a thousand students gathered in front of the Bosnian Parliament in Sarajevo to continue Thursday's protest while others took to the streets in Tuzla, Zenica, Banja Luka and Mostar.

Following a two-day protest in front of the Bosnian Parliament in Sarajevo, around a thousand students walked the streets of the capital on June 7 and gathered again at the same place to show support for the demands made by protesters the day before.

Protesters also took to the streets of Tuzla urging state lawmakers to adopt a law on personal numbers, which will allow newborns to get ID documents and access their civil rights.

Around 300 people of Mostar gathered on the main square in a rally to show support for the protesters of Sarajevo who put pressure on the authorities for two days to solve the personal numbers issue while also venting their overall dissatisfaction with the situation in the city.

In Zenica around 100 people expressed solidarity with the Sarajevo protests while some came to the capital to join students in their protest.

During Wednesday's and Thursday's protest in Sarajevo, many people from Banja Luka also sent messages of support through social networks, but no mass protests were organized.

It comes after protesters trapped them - and hundreds of others - in the State Parliament building in Sarajevo for hours on Thursday night, through until dawn on Friday.

Mladen Bosic, President of the Serbian Democratic Party, SDS, one of two major ruling Serbian parties, on Friday said those trapped inside the parliament and other ministries were turned into political hostages.

“This is just the beginning of this story. Now comes an analysis of our further steps because everything points to the fact that, for us from Republika Srpska, Sarajevo is not a safe city,” Bosic said.

He said it was questionable whether Serbian members of the State Parliament would return to attend another session in Sarajevo.

“In the coming days we will take a stand on this, but, until then, sessions of parliament can be held in Pale,” Bosic said, referring to the small town near Sarajevo in Republika Srpska.

His party colleague, Aleksandra Pandurevic, an MP, on Twitter on Thursday described the protesters as a lynch mob.

“The protest in front of parliament was set up by Bosniak [Muslim] parties, and they want to lynch us from Republika Srpska,” she wrote. “The building is blocked and they're calling for us Serbs.”

The protesters - who were demanding adoption of a law on personal numbers - have denied targeting any ethnic group.

They say they wanted to put pressure on parliamentarians to adopt the law on personal numbers, which would allow newborns to get important documents such as passports.

But those opposed to the law were overwhelmingly from the Republika Srpska, which is why some Serbian MPs felt at risk.

Pandurevic noted that the Interior Minister of Sarajevo Canton had refused to send the police to end the siege.

This clearly was a political decision and, due to the overall situation it was not unsafe for Republika Srpska representatives to come to Sarajevo, she continued.

“Whether lawmakers from the Federation [entity] will be ready to come to East Sarajevo or Banja Luka [in Republika Srpska] I don't know,” she said.

“But we can guarantee their security, and that no citizens will be gathering around where the parliament sessions are being held to protest.”

The Prime Minister of Republika Srpska, Zeljka Cvijanovic, also described the protests as politically orchestrated, suggesting that they had little to do with the dispute over personal numbers.

“If it all started with [the dispute on] personal numbers, it sure got wings and a political dimension,” she added.

“Nothing will be the same as it was,” Cvijanovic added. “This situation showed in what conditions the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina function.”

Dusanka Majkic, of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, SNSD, said the police in Sarajevo, and the State Security Minister, Fahrudin Radoncic, had failed to uphold people's safety and the right to freedom of movement.

During the blockade of state institutions on Thursday, a total of 1,500 people, including all parliamentarians and 350 foreign investors, were trapped until 4am Friday. “Bosnia and Herzegovina showed those 350 donors what kind of country it is,” Majkic said.

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