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News 29 Jul 16

Bosnian Serbs Oppose New Anti-Terror Body

A proposal to establish a new coordination group against terrorism in Bosnia is drawing criticism from authorities in Republika Srpska who say it will break the law.

Rodolfo Toe BIRN Sarajevo
 Policemen of Bosnia's State Investigation and Protection Agency. Photo: SIPA.

The proposal to put into operation a new anti-terrorist state coordination mechanism between all Bosnian police and security agencies is drawing opposition from Republika Srpska, RS, Bosnia's Serb-dominated entity.

The proposal, backed by the Bosnian Ministry of Security, Dragan Mektic, will likely be sent for approval to the Council of Ministers next week, the ministry told BIRN.

The proposal was on the agenda of the Council of Ministers on Thursday, but was not discussed as Minister Mektic was outside the country.

The Ministry confirmed that the body will be chaired by the Ministry of Security, instead of the General Prosecutor of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who so far chaired inter-agency groups for the fight against terrorism at state level.

The plan has drawn criticism from the RS, which argues that it will change the balance of powers inside Bosnian institutions.

"On the basis of the plan, the group will be able to conduct investigations and form investigative teams, which is against the law," Dragan Lukac, the RS Interior Minister, said on Wednesday.

"Nobody can take away responsibility for conducting investigations from the Bosnian Prosecution, above all the Ministry of Security, which from a legal point of view has no authority to conduct investigative actions," Lukac said.

Mirna Miljanovic, from the RS Interior Ministry, declined to comment further, adding: "The position of the authorities of RS is well known."

However, despite opposition from the RS government, members of the Serbian Democratic Party, SDS, which is part of the Council of Ministers, support the plan.

"This is all a political problem," Ognjen Tadic from the SDS told Bosnian media, expressing his support for his party colleague, Mektic.

He predicted that opposition to the plan would only "last until a bomb explodes somewhere, killing people, and then [the politicians] they will just try to blame each other".

On Wednesday, representatives of Bosnia's various security and police agencies said an "Operational Group against Terrorism" had already started operating.

However, this is not a new agency but only a body facilitating exchanges of information on terrorism between different agencies, and whose creation has been delayed for five years, Radio Free Europe reported.

Experts have repeatedly said Bosnia needs better coordination between its different police agencies to counter terrorism and radicalisation.

Bosnia is one of the main regional exporters of Jihadists to the Middle East, official data show.

At least 200 Bosnian citizens have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight with the Islamic State, ISIS, and at least 50 have returned home, research published by BIRN last March reported.

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