News 21 Feb 13

Bosnian Serb Town Flags ‘Discriminatory’

The constitutional court in Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska ruled that Serb symbols used by the towns of Banja Luka and Nevesinje discriminated against Bosniaks and Croats.

Denis Dzidic
BIRN
Sarajevo
Banja Luka coat of arms/Photo: Banja Luka municipality

Republika Srpska’s constitutional court ruled on Wednesday that the coats of arms and flags of Banja Luka and Nevesinje contain “symbols of the religious and national identity of the Bosnian Serb people alone” and are therefore unconstitutional.

“Considering that the symbols of local communities must contain the traditions and cultural and historical heritage of all their citizens, the constitutional court found that these symbols put members of the other two constitutional peoples [Bosniaks and Croats] and members of other ethnic groups in an unequal position,” the verdict said.

The towns’ coats of arms and flags feature four Cyrillic letters which represent a well-known Serbian slogan, ‘Only Unity Can Save the Serbs’.

The court found that the symbols violate constitutional principles which guarantee human rights and freedoms for all citizens of Republika Srpska.

After the verdict, Banja Luka mayor Slobodan Gavranovic told local media that he was aware of the problem.

“I will not comment on the court’s decision, but we are ready and willing to find a new solution,” said Gavranovic.

The Republika Srpska ministry responsible for local government claimed on Wednesday that the decision means that the current symbols effectively no longer exist, and that new ones will have to be adopted.

Mujo Hadziomerovic, the president of the Bosniak Club of Delegates at Republika Srpska’s people’s council, which appealed to the court against the town symbols, said the verdict was just.

“We see there are problems with the symbols here. We have filed similar appeals for more than 35 municipalities. The current symbols usurp the rights of the other two constitutional peoples,” said Hadziomerovic.

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