News 22 Dec 17

Bosnian Serbs Defiantly Promise Lavish ‘Statehood’ Holiday

Defying Bosnia’s state authorities, the EU and US, the Serb-dominated entity of Republika Srpska is organising a lavish celebration of its disputed ‘statehood’ holiday, despite a ban by the Constitutional Court.

Mladen Lakic
BIRN
Sarajevo
President Milorad Dodik and guests mark the Day of Republika Srpska in 2016. Photo: RS Presidency.

Bosnian Serb President Milorad Dodik said on Thursday evening that plans are underway to mark the disputed Day of Republika Srpska on January 9, even though the state Constitutional Court declared the holiday unconstitutional.

Dodik also said that members of the Bosnian armed forces would not be allowed to participate.

“I have refused any participation by the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina in marking the Day of Republika Srpska. I do not want to have any more controversy about this,” he told television station K-3.

The celebration in January 2017 saw controversy over the participation of members of the Bosnian armed forces.

Some Bosnian Army soldiers attended the celebrations despite warnings from state and international institutions that their attendance was illegal.

Bosnia’s Constitutional Court ruled last year that holding the annual holiday on January 9 was discriminatory against non-Serbs in Republika Srpska because it is also a Serbian Orthodox religious holiday - the day of St Stephen, who is the entity’s patron saint.

As a result of the ruling, the Day of Republika Srpska will not include a religious ceremony. In December 2016, the Republika Srpska National Assembly adopted a law stipulating that is a secular holiday.

The annual celebration has also unsettled Bosniaks who see the founding of Republika Srpska on January 9, 1992 as a prelude to the war that broke out soon afterwards.

Dodik said the upcoming event will feature a 50-strong honour guard of police in special uniforms to mark the Day of Republika Srpska.

“We will introduce the guard of honour platoon on Republic Day and we don’t need the Bosnia and Herzegovina Armed Forces. I respect all Serbs [serving] in these forces, but we do not see them as ours,” he said.

Political controversy over the Day of Republika Srpska has recurred repeatedly over the past two years.

Dodik used the celebration in January this year to say that unless further autonomy is granted to Republika Srpska, the entity would not remain a part of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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