News 27 Jun 13

Bosnian Serb Declaration on 1990s War Sparks Controversy

Bosnian Serb lawmakers adopted a declaration on the conflict which said Serbs have been demonised and the Hague Tribunal has delivered unjust verdicts against war crimes suspects.

Denis Dzidic, Goran Obradovic
Sarajevo, Banja Luka

Parliament in Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska adopted the declaration on the causes and consequences of the 1992-95 war on Thursday, but experts said that it was one-sided and should include Bosniak and Croat views.

The declaration, which was proposed by the Bosnian Serb Army Veterans Union, defines the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a “civil war with a significant degree of international involvement” and criticises the verdicts of both the Hague Tribunal and domestic courts against Bosnian Serb perpetrators as unjust.  

“The negative qualification of certain events has served as a basis for many forms of satanisation of the Bosnian Serb people,” it states.

The speaker of the Parliament of Republika Srpska Igor Radojicic said during the parliament session discussing the proposed declaration that he will ask the United Nations General Assembly, as founder of the Hague Tribunal, to review the court’s work. 

“We state that, in assessing the events from the previous war, there is not enough objective, balanced and consistent approach from all sides in Bosnia and outside, especially when it comes to violations of international war and humanitarian law and stances on causes, character and consequences of the war,” said Radojicic, adding that the Declaration sternly condemned and dismissed all calls for abolition of Republika Srpska.

An MP from the Serb Democratic Party, Miroslav Kojic, told BIRN that there was no genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina, while his colleague from the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, Nikola Bastinac, said that the proposed declaration represents a “platform for further dialogue on reconciliation”.

“Reconciliation won’t happen until some things are corrected - namely, that there is no collective responsibility on any of the sides,” said Bastinac.

The president of the Veterans’ Organisation of Republika Srpska which proposed the declaration, Pantelija Curguz, said that its aim is to finally reveal the truth about what happened in the war.

“We should call what happened by its real name. We insist that others carry their own part of the burden,” said Curguz.

Although the Bosnian Serb delegates of the People’s Assembly were in favour of the declaration, it has attracted strong criticism from Bosniak delegates. The deputy speaker of parliament and MP from the [Bosniak] Party of Democratic Action, Ramiz Salkic, called it one-sided.

He added that international court verdicts, which ruled there was genocide in Srebrenica, “said enough about the character of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina”.

“The discussion about these issues comes at a difficult time, with the entire current political and economic situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I think all three sides should be of opinion that all the crimes committed in Bosnia should be processed and not only those committed against Serb people,” he said.

“Criminals must be punished with maximum sentences if we want to resume living in a normal environment,” he added.

Experts described the discussion of the declaration as a positive sign because it demonstrated the willingness of the Bosnian Serb assembly to discuss the past, but added that Bosniaks and Croats should have been involved in its drafting, not only Serbs.

“The easiest thing would be to criticize this, but we must commend the idea to finally talk about the causes of war. The only problem is that, if we were truly to talk about this issue, than we would need greater participation from the Bosniak and Bosnian Croat sides,” said Aleksandra Letic, a human rights activist.

She added that another problem is the declaration’s criticism of court verdicts as biased against Serbs.

“The idea to revise all verdicts against Bosnian Serb perpetrators, without concrete evidence or arguments, and to questions the work of the Hague Tribunal, is quite questionable,” Letic said.

Her view was shared by legal expert Vehid Sehic, who said he hoped that the idea of discussing the past would be also taken up by the Bosnian state parliament.

“I hope everyone takes a look at the facts and the verdicts of the Hague Tribunal and uses them as a basis to find a common truth about the war,” said Sehic.

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