news 23 Jul 15

Bosniaks Veto Bosnian Serb Courts Referendum

Bosniak officials have used a constitutional safeguard to try to block a hotly disputed referendum in Bosnia's Serb-dominated entity on the powers of the state courts.

Srecko Latal
  The Republika Srpska assembly. Photo by BIRN.

Bosniak delegates to the Council of Peoples in the Republika Srpska assembly on Thursday used their veto powers to block the assembly's decision last week to hold a referendum on the authority of the state judicial institutions and the Office of the High Representative.

Mujo Hadziomerovic, chief of the Bosniak caucus in the Council of Peoples, said they had evoked a constitutional safeguard, concerning "protection of their vital national interest", since Bosniaks believe the referendum would violate Bosnia's constitutions and the 1995 Dayton Peace Accord taht ended the war.

Bosnian Croat delegates to the Council of Peoples did not invoke the same constitutional safeguard. Representatives of the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, failed to show up at the session on Thursday.

In line with the mechanism concerning the "protection of vital national interests", the disputed decision will now go to the entity's constitutional court.

Hadziomerovic said that Bosniak delegates doubt that the court - which they have alleged is under the influence of the ruling bloc in the entity - will uphold their complaint.

However, if disappointed, they plan to appeal to the highest legal body in the country, the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The assembly in the mainly Serb entity voted to hold a referendum on July 16, acting on a request from the president of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, who said it was the only way to draw the attention to the poor work of the state judiciary.

In the referendum, Republika Srpska citizens would be asked whether they support the “anti-constitutional and unauthorised laws imposed by the High Representative of the international community, especially the laws imposed relating to the Court and the Prosecutor's office of Bosnia and Herzegovina”.

While admitting that the state judiciary is in bad shape, most local and international officials condemned the idea as anti-constitutional and pointed out that neither of Bosnia's two entities has the right to question the work of state or international bodies.

After Serbia's Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vucic, also criticised the idea last week and asked Dodik to reconsider it, Dodik somewhat softened his position and said he was ready to withdraw the initiative if local and international officials could agree on reforming the state judiciary.

The softening of Dodik's position is also believed to be related to strong reactions from some Western, especially US, diplomats, who threatened to impose a travel ban on Dodik, freeze his bank accounts and if needs be, use other sanctions against him.

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