news 15 Dec 16

Bosnian Serb Soldiers Make ‘Suicide’ Threat in Retirement Row

Demobilised soldiers from Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska have threatened to protest and claim they are considering suicide if they are not granted the early retirement to which they are entitled.

Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
BIRN
Banja Luka
Demobilised soldiers have vowed to protest outside the Bosnian Serb parliament. Photo Bosnian Army.

Demobilised soldiers who say they have been denied early retirement by the Republika Srpska authorities have vowed to protest outside the entity’s National Assembly and claimed they were willing to commit suicide if the government doesn’t grant them early retirement and pensions or reinstatement into military service.

A representative of the 348 demobilised soldiers, Branko Vukovic, told BIRN that a number of them have court rulings which guarantee them early retirement.

Vukovic said that if their demands are not met, they will rally outside the Republika Srpska National Assembly in the centre of Banja Luka on the entity’s ‘statehood day’ on January 9, and some were prepared to consider committing suicide.

“If a soldier kills himself because of their lies - because of the way they have been punishing soldiers for their involvement in the war - they had better beware,” he said.

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Human Rights Ombudsman told BIRN that the 348 soldiers were given the status of retired military personnel on September 1, 2010, but have not yet received pensions.

In May this year, the Human Rights Ombudsman sent a recommendation to the Republika Srpska government and the entity’s pension fund urging both to immediately fulfil their legal requirements and grant the demobilised soldiers early retirement, a spokesperson for the Ombudsman said.

Amendments made in 2010 to the state law on service in the country’s armed forces said that professional soldiers can only serve up to 35 years of age in the country’s army, after which they should be granted early retirement status.

Bosnia’s mostly Bosniak and Croat entity, the Federation, implemented the amendments, but Republika Srpska has not.

Soldiers who addressed Republika Srpska’s pension fund were asked to sign a declaration stating that they will not seek the recognition of their rights, as spelled out in the amended state-level law, in exchange for a payment, the Ombudsman’s office told BIRN.

Many of those who refused to do so took their cases to court and won, but still failed to get early retirement status from the Republika Srpska authorities.

Vukovic, a demobilised soldier from East Sarajevo, also sent a letter to Republika Srpska National Assembly speaker Nedeljko Cubrilovic last week pleading the men’s case.

“The soldiers demand that the assembly, in line with the clauses of its rule book, enforce its own law and grant the soldiers the right to early retirement,” Vukovic wrote in the letter.

“If it is unable to do so, the soldiers plead to be returned to professional military service, to their jobs which were seized from them fraudulently,” he added.
Vukovic told BIRN however that he was sceptical that the letter would have any effect.

“This letter will have no influence on them,” he said.

This was the second letter that Vukovic has addressed to Cubrilovic over the issue this year

In April, in response to his first plea for help, Vukovic was told that the National Assembly can’t resolve the issue on its own without the willingness and help of other institutions.

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