News 13 Oct 17

Bosnian Serbs Accuse Judges, Prosecutors of Bias

The Justice Ministry war crimes centre in Bosnia’s Serb-dominated Republika Srpska complained to the country’s judicial overseer, accusing 15 state-level judges and prosecutors of anti-Serb bias.

Danijel Kovacevic
Banja Luka
The Republika Srpska government building. Photo: Vlada RS.

The Republika Srpska Justice Ministry’s Centre for Research on War, War Crimes and Missing Persons complained to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council on Friday, accusing nine judges and six prosecutors of having discriminated against Serbs in war crimes cases.

The Centre’s director, Milorad Kojic, told a press conference that on the list is judge Saban Maksumic, who was on the judging panel in the trial of the Bosnian Army’s former Srebrenica commander Naser Oric, who was acquitted by the state court on Monday of killing Serb prisoners of war. The other two judges on the panel were Serbs.

The Oric verdict sparked anger among Bosnian Serb political leaders.

“The High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council should ensure an independent, impartial and professional judiciary, but with the people who were imprisoning Serbs during the war, it cannot be independent, impartial or professional,” Kojic said.

He claimed that the nine judges and six prosecutors were appointed as military judges during the war, based on a decree from the wartime Bosnian presidency, and their appointments were published in the official gazette of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

He also alleged that some of them were military judges in wartime prison camps, such as the Viktor Bubanj camp, where Serbs were detained.

“Criminal complaints for inhumane treatment of prisoners of war of Serb ethnic background were filed against some of them, but, regardless, they have been appointed to either a position of a judge in the court or in the prosecutor’s office of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Kojic said.

In response to the acquittal of Oric, the Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik has also convened a meeting of all political representatives of the Bosnian Serbs, both in the entity and in state institutions.

The meeting is to be held on Saturday in Banja Luka, the administrative centre of Republika Srpska, and Dodik has announced that he will propose measures to suspend the state court and prosecutor’s office’s operations in Republika Srpska.

“We will discuss these measures with all Serbian political representatives. They will be rigorous,” Dodik told reporters on Thursday.

But the leaders of the three main opposition parties in Republika Srpska sent an open letter to Dodik saying they will not come to the meeting as they do not believe he is working “in accordance with the constitution”.

However they said that they condemn Oric’s aquittal and will work to “minimise the damage of this harmful and shameful verdict”.

Tensions between the opposition and ruling parties in Republika Srpska are rising as the entity awaits a general and presidential election in autumn next year.

The Office of the High Representative, the international overseer for peace implementation in Bosnia, has warned meanwhile that “one-sided decisions” which would suspend or limit the state court and prosecution’s jurisdiction in one part of the country would be “anti-constitutional and unacceptable”, FENA news agency reported on Thursday.

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