News 16 Aug 17

Court Rejects Bosnian Serb Claim to Army Facilities

The Constitutional Court ruled that military facilities in the country's Serb-dominated entity are owned by the state - a decision which could help Bosnia move towards membership of NATO.

Danijel Kovacevic
Banja Luka
Republika Srpska's President Milorad Dodik. Photo: Dragan Gojic/Beta.

Bosnia and Herzegovina's Constitutional Court has rejected an appeal from the Attorney's Office of Republika Srpska, Bosnia's Serb-dominated entity - ruling that the state, and not the entity, owns military facilities on the Veliki Zep mountain near the town of Han Pijesak.

The Constitutional Court's ruling is final, but political leaders in Republika Srpska have vowed to ignore it.

“This is not the first, nor the last decision of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina that will not be enforced,” the deputy speaker of Republika Srpska's National Assembly, Nenad Stevandic, told BIRN.

In legal terms, the Bosnian Serb authorities have no more remedies and are obliged to register the military facility in Han Pijesak as the property of the state.

“This decision would also give the state prosecutor the legal basis to press charges over all other such military locations currently registered as the property of RS,” Nikola Kovacevic, a member of the entity's Commission for State Property, told BIRN.

There have been years of political bickering about the ownership of 63 military facilities previously owned by the former Yugoslav People’s Army in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Their registration as state property has been the last remaining condition for Bosnia’s NATO Membership Action Plan, which has been on the table since 2009, to finally be activated.

But the Republika Srpska authorities insist that military facilities that are located on their territory are the entity’s property and do not belong to the state.

They have so far refused to agree to register the 23 military locations in the Serb-dominated entity as state property.

Bosnian Serb political leaders oppose NATO membership for the country.

But the leader of the Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Amir Jerlagic, welcomed the court decision as a step towards joining the Western military alliance.

“We are expecting the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as the supreme commander of the armed forces, to inform the secretary-general of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, that Bosnia and Herzegovina has fulfilled conditions for the activation of MAP,” said Jerlagic.

But Kovacevic claimed that the court ruling contravened the Dayton Peace Agreement which ended the Bosnian war, arguing that according to the peace deal, Republika Srpska's territory is “unique, indivisible and inalienable”.

Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik said on Wednesday that with its decision, the Constitutional Court confirmed that it was a political rather than a judicial body.

"To be completely honest, this decision is not a surprise for me given the fact that the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina continuously adopts anti-constitutional and political decisions," Dodik told SRNA news agency.

The Constitutional Court made its decision at its last session before the summer break, on July 6, but politicians only began to react publicly on Wednesday.

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