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News 20 Sep 17

Bosnian Serb Leader Puts Justice Referendum on Hold

Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik said a referendum over the jurisdiction of Bosnia's state court will not now take place because the international reaction would be hostile.

Danijel Kovacevic
BIRN
Banja Luka
Bosnian Serb President Milorad Dodik. Photo: Anadolu

Bosnian Serb President Milorad Dodik said on Tuesday that his ruling Alliance of the Independent Social Democrats, SNSD, was no longer pushing for a referendum on the jurisdiction of the state courts over the courts of the Serb-led entity, Republika Srpska.

The call for a referendum in the mainly Serb entity on whether its people wish to accept the jurisdiction of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Prosecutor's Office was, however, published in the RS Official Gazette on Wednesday.

But Dodik said he had no option but to suspend the holding of the referendum in deference to international reality.

It was «not a sign of weakness, but there is no political consensus on the issue at this time,» he said

On Wednesday, Dodik explained that the move to suspend the referendum was not about losing the political will to do so but about conducting a responsible policy.

He said that if the RS pushed ahead with the referendum at this point, it would “experience significant problems from angry representatives of the international community”.

He added that, one day, when the political constellation looked more favourable, he hoped the people of the RS would be able to exercise their right to hold a referendum over this issue.

Dodik said Republika Srpska citizens deserved to voice their opinion on the State Court and Prosecutor’s Office, since its powers were «seized from the Republika Srpska and forcibly transferred to the level of BiH».

Pointing to the current political turmoil over separatism in the Catalonia region of Spain, Dodik said that it was important to note that although Catalonia was much stronger than Republika Srpska, it was also having great difficulty in establishing its right to hold referendums, «so one should understand how difficult this struggle is in Republika Srpska».

Vukota Govedarica, leader of the opposition Serbian Democratic Party SDS, criticized Dodik's announcement, however, saying the abandonment of the referendum plan was a prime example of Dodik's fraudulent political policy.

The Official Gazette published the call for the referendum after the SDS, at the last session of the RS Assembly, demanded it, and the speaker of the assembly agreed.

Arguments over the powers of the state courts over the RS have lasted years but went up a notch after the country's constitutional court controversially banned the RS from celebrating January 9 as its national day.

In response, in September 2016, Bosnian Serbs staged a referendum, also deemed illegal, in which they affirmed their wish to keep January 9 as the entity's national holiday.

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