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news 22 Apr 14

Bosnian Serbs Shrug off Row Over Residency Checks

Leaders of the Serbian entity in Bosnia have dismissed claims that a new decree on checking people's residence targets any specific ethnic group or returnees.

Elvira M. Jukic

Zeljka Cvijanovic, Prime Minister of Republika Srpska, said Bosniak parties and organizations were raising unnecessary tensions over a recent decision regarding checks on residence in the entity.

On Tuesday, she denied Bosniak claims that the decision was aimed at any specific ethnic group, or against Bosniak returnees, adding that the claim was clearly related to upcoming elections.

Cvijanovic said some people had registered fake addresses in order to gain voting rights in the entity while others needed to be checked as a possible threats to security.

“Who knows for which reasons people, instead of true ones, register fake addresses at various non-existent facilities, objects, institutions, religious communities, factories, schools and similar,” she said.

“Why would the government or any institution trust an individual who was giving fake information, including about his or her place of residence?” she added.

Cvijanovic said the decision to check people's residence in Republika Srpska was brought so that institutions did not have to wait indefinitely for a law on residence to be adopted in Bosnia's state-level parliament.

The speaker of the Republika Srpska assembly, Igor Radojicic, said it was the Bosniak parties that had not allowed such a law to be adopted, which is why the entity had decided to deal with the issue itself.

“Those disputing the validity of any decision have a regular, constitutional path through which to make a complaint,” Radojicic noted, recalling that the Republika Srpska government brought the recent decision on the basis of the conclusions of the entity parliament.

However, as laws on residence are a state-level issue, critics maintain that Republika Srpska has no right to regulate the issue.

The Initiative of March 1, a group that lobbies for the rights of post-war returnees, said the decision threatened “a whole line of civic and political rights of non-Serb in Republika Srpska”.

The entity authorities have criticised the work of the Initiative of March 1, which, during the local elections, urged people to register in Srebrenica so they could vote there.

Their aim was was to stop Serbian candidates from taking control of the local authority in Srebrenica, which for Bosniaks remains an important sysmbol of their wartime suffering, owing to the massacre that took place there in 1995.

The Bosniak member of Bosnia's Presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic, said Republika Srpska was breaking the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords, which contain an annex, Annex VII, about the rights of returnees.

“This decision is anti-Dayton and has the obvious intention of discrimination, aiming to continue and legalize the ethnic cleansing and genocide conducted in the territory of the Republika Srpska entity,” Izetbegovic said, adding rights of returnees to the entity were now in danger.

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