News 18 Jul 17

Bosnian Serb President in ‘Hate Speech’ Probe

The state prosecutor is investigating Milorad Dodik, leader of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska, for saying that Bosniaks returning to their pre-war homes are ‘occupying’ eastern Bosnia.

Igor Spaic
BIRN
Sarajevo
The president of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik. Photo: SNSD.

Milorad Dodik faces a hate speech probe for saying earlier this month that Islamic organisations are funding the return of Bosniaks to the country’s border area with Serbia so that “Muslims once again occupy the Drina river [area of eastern Bosnia]”, news website Klix reported on Monday.

Prosecutors launched the probe after a complaint from the Bosniak member of the country’s tripartite presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic.

Izetbegovic said this was “the most dangerous statement from a top official in Bosnia and Herzegovina” since the war, and alleged that it represents a form of intimidation against Bosniak returnees to the Serb-controlled area of Podrinje in eastern Bosnia.

“The aforementioned statement undoubtedly implies that Milorad Dodik believes that up until 1992, Bosniaks were occupiers of the Drina area, and that because of this, they should have been expelled from their homes,” Izetbegovic said.

He added that the statement implies the return of Bosniaks to the area is “another occupation of this part of Bosnia which needs to be stopped”.

Izetbegovic also complained to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s international overseer, High Representative Valentin Inzko, as well as to the Peace Implementation Council, a panel of ambassadors representing the countries which signed Bosnia’s peace agreement as guarantors.

During the war, Bosnian Serb forces expelled or killed most of the Bosniak population of eastern Bosnia.

The 1995 Dayton peace treaty which ended the war emphasised the right of the expelled to return to their homes safely, but only a small number of them have gone back so far, as many believe it is still unsafe.

Dodik, who made the statement at a July 7 event in Bratunac, commemorating Serbs killed in eastern Bosnia in the 1992-95 war, dismissed the complaint as an attempt by Izetbegovic to criminalise the Republika Srpska leadership.

He also defended his statement.

“I said there are organisations that gave money exclusively to aid people to return to the east, close to the Drina river, and that this is a new attempt to revive old strategic goals,” Dodik said on Monday, TV1 reported.

“Bosniaks live freely in Bratunac, Srebrenica and some other places. I did not say they shouldn’t come,” he added.

Inzko meanwhile condemned Dodik’s comments as “deplorable, fundamentally unacceptable and an insult to every victim or survivor”.

“Statements such as the one given by Republika Srpska entity President Dodik have no other purpose but to create fear amongst one of the most vulnerable groups in BiH [Bosnia and Herzegovina]. He should be aware that no political campaign can justify this,” Inzko said in a statement on Sunday.

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