News 13 Jul 17

Bosnian Serbs Indicted for ‘Statehood Day’ Referendum

The state prosecution indicted four members of the Bosnian Serb Referendum Commission for failing to implement a Constitutional Court decision banning a controversial vote on the Day of Republika Srpska.

Elameri Skrgic Mikulic
BIRN
Sarajevo
Sinisa Karan, head of the Republika Srpska Referendum Commission. Photo: BIRN.

The Bosnian state prosecution on Thursday filed charges against the president of the Republika Srpska Referendum Commission, Sinisa Karan, and three commission members, Dragoljub Reljic, Goran Zmijanjac and Milan Petkovic, for flouting the state-level Constitutional Court’s ruling and holding the banned referendum.

The prosecution said in a statement that the four men undertook a range of actions related to holding of the referendum on the National Day of Republika Srpska on September 25, 2016, which raised political tensions and divided the country along ethnic lines.

“According to the charges, instead of acting in accordance with the Bosnian Constitutional Court’s binding decision on temporary measures and discontinuing all activities related to the implementation of the referendum, through their actions and activities, they continued working, as the commission, on the organisation and implementation of the referendum,” the prosecution said.

However the prosecution said it had halted investigations into Bosnian Serb President Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of the tripartite state presidency, Mladen Ivanic, Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Zeljka Cvijanovic and the trade and economic affairs minister on Bosnia’s Council of Ministers, Mirko Sarovic, citing lack of evidence.

It said that there was “not sufficient evidence that they undertook actions that constituted the commission of a crime, assistance in or abetment of the crime in question”.

Dodik was one of the main promoters of the banned referendum, and celebrated victory afterwards at a rally in the town of Pale.

The prosecution also said that an order has been issued to discontinue investigations against Bosnian Serb MPs Davor Sesic, Nedeljko Glamocak, Perica Bundalo, Zdenko Gojkovic and Vojislav as they have immunity from criminal prosecution as lawmakers in the Republika Srpska National Assembly.

The banned referendum was a reaction to another decision in 2015 by the state-level Constitutional Court, which ruled that holding the annual Day of Republika Srpska on January 9 was discriminatory against non-Serbs in the Serb-dominated entity because it was also a Serbian Orthodox religious holiday.

January 9 was the day in 1992 that Bosnia’s Serbs declared the foundation of Republika Srpska, which the country’s Bosniaks see as a precursor to the war that broke out soon afterwards.

Bosniak politicians expressed fears that the referendum, held in defiance of state institutions, could be a precursor to a ballot on Republika Srpska’s secession from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The vote was also strongly opposed by the EU and the US.

Republika Srpska’s ally Serbia declined to support it, although the Russian ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Petar Ivancov, offered Moscow’s backing.

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