News 20 Feb 17

Bosnian Serbs to Challenge Serbia Genocide Case Appeal

Bosnian Serb political parties are seeking to unite to prevent a Bosniak-backed move to lodge an appeal against the International Court of Justice verdict clearing Serbia of direct responsibility for genocide.

Danijel Kovacevic, Maja Zivanovic
Banja Luka, Belgrade
A mourner at the reburial of Srebrenica victims in 2014. Photo: Beta.

Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik, the leader of the Alliance of the Independent Social Democrats, agreed with Democratic National Alliance leader Marko Pavic and Socialist Party leader Petar Djokic on Sunday to hold a special session of the Bosnian Serb-led entity’s National Assembly in a bid to resist the Bosniak-backed move to appeal against the International Court of Justice verdict.

The Bosniak member of the country’s tripartite presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic, announced on Friday that Bosnia will launch an appeal against the International Court of Justice’s 2007 verdict that cleared Serbia of complicity in genocide during the 1992-95 war.

The decision to ask the court to reconsider the verdict has caused anger among Bosnia’s Serbs and politicians in Belgrade.

Dodik said that he expects the Republika Srpska National Assembly session to be held as early as Tuesday.

He said that Izetbegovic should take Bosnian Serbs’ views into account, and warned he was “risking the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina”.

“If they want Bosnia and Herzegovina to succeed, Bosniaks must understand that there are the Serb people in Bosnia and Herzegovina too,” Dodik said.

“If someone wants to make decisions on behalf of the Serbs, there will be consequences,” he added.

Dodik, Pavic, and Djokic also invited members of the other Bosnian Serb political parties to a joint meeting on Monday to formulate their next steps.

Pavic said that he believed that any review of the case would fail to find Serbia responsible for genocide.

“There is no evidence. But the real issue is that this introduces the practice whereby an individual can decide on behalf of the people and the state. That is anarchy. It is better that such a Bosnia and Herzegovina doesn’t exist,” he said.

Serb MPs in the state-level parliament are also meeting on Monday to discuss the issue.

In the 2007 verdict, the International Court of Justice held that the 1995 massacre of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys from Srebrenica by Bosnian Serb forces was genocide and that Serbia had breached the Geneva Conventions by not impeding it.

However, the ICJ ruled that there was not enough proof to show that Bosnian Serb forces committing the genocide acted under the “direction” or “effective control” of Serbia.

The window during which an appeal can be lodged at the ICJ expires on February 26.

The decision to appeal was made following a joint meeting in Sarajevo on Friday of about 50 legal experts, representatives of government, opposition parties, academics, and NGOs.

Dodik said meanwhile that Bosnian Serb leaders will request a meeting with the officials in Belgrade so they can coordinate their response.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Friday that the move to revive the genocide suit at the ICJ meant the beginning of a time of difficult relations between Serbia and Bosnia – and insisted that Bosnia has more to lose than Serbia.

Tibor Varadi, a former member of the Serbian legal team that worked on the ICJ case, said on Sunday that it is unlikely that Bosnia’s request for a review of the judgment will be accepted.

He suggested that the request will be treated as a new case, which requires new authorisation from representatives of the Bosnian state, as well as new judges.

“According to what I know, it seems unlikely that the request will be adopted,” Varadi told Tanjug news agency.

Neither Serbia nor Republika Srpska regards the 1995 Srebrenica massacres as genocide, despite verdicts handed down by international courts.

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