News 27 Feb 17

Bosnian Serb Lawmakers Slam Genocide Lawsuit

Bosnian Serb lawmakers voted to impede state-level decision-making in response to attempts by Bosniak presidency member Bakir Izetbegovic to launch an appeal against the 2007 judgment that cleared Serbia of direct responsibility for genocide.

Danijel Kovacevic
BIRN
Banja Luka
Republika Srpska president Milorad Dodik. Photo: Anadolu

After six hours of debate, a special session of the National Assembly of the Bosnian Serb entity Republika Srpska ended with lawmakers voting to “reject and strongly condemn” Bosnian Muslim [Bosniak] member of the presidency Bakir Izetbegovic’s bid to launch an appeal against the 2007 judgment at the International Courts of Justice that cleared Serbia of direct responsibility for genocide.

The decision to lodge a request for appeal with the court was “taken against the will of the other constituent peoples [Serbs and Croats] of Bosnia,” said the statement adopted at the session.

The RS National Assembly also invited Serbian representatives in the country’s state-level institutions to use all legal and political means to prevent decision-making, until issues of interest to RS – such as acts related to the state prosecutor’s office and the resolution of property issues – have been resolved.

Not all lawmakers voted in favour of the package, with some abstaining.

MPs emphasised that the goal was to show that Izetbegovic’s act was unconstitutional.

Bosnia's legal counsel Sakib Softic submitted a request to the ICJ in the Hague last Thursday for a review of the 2007 judgment in the lawsuit in which Bosnia attempted to sue Serbia for genocide in Bosnia during the war of 1992 to 1995.

Softic lodged the request without the express consent of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, leading some to doubt its legality and claim that government institutions had not been respected.

In its conclusions, the RS National Assembly also called for an urgent response from the international community and the countries that guarantee the Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the war.

What this will mean and whether Serb members of the state institutions will abide by the conclusions will be made clear tomorrow when the Bosnian Council of Ministers will meet.

The original judgment was delivered in February 2007, and the ICJ confirmed that genocide had occurred in Srebrenica – where more than 7,000 Bosniak men and boys were killed – and that Bosnian Serb military and police forces were responsible for the crime.

However, the former Yugoslavia’s present-day successor, Serbia, were found not to have been directly responsible and Belgrade was only found to have failed in its duty to prevent the crime and help bring its perpetrators to justice.

Ivanic: Bosniaks 'created parallel government structures'

The request for an appeal has provoked negative reactions from Serb politicians since it was lodged last week, but today brought out the strongest speeches yet.

“The request for review will fall at the first step,” warned Mladen Ivanic, Serb member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, adding that the affair had traduced the principles of decision-making in the country.

“This clearly shows that the Bosniak side used the institutions in their own interests … and created parallel structures that correspond to only the Bosniak member of the Presidency, not in the interests of all [three of Bosnia’s constituent people],” Ivanic said.

He said he would send a letter to the ICJ to tell the court that the request was from Bosnia and Herzegovina, but by an informal group looking to provoke a crisis.

He said he did not trust official channels to send the letter, but instead selected Bosnian Foreign Minister Igor Crnadak as his envoy.

“Bosniaks have formed parallel diplomatic structures in Bosnia and Herzegovina embassies. Using one of those parallel structures, Bakir Izetbegovic ordered the Bosnian ambassador in Holland, Mirsada Colakovic, not to send my [previous] letter to the ICJ,” said Ivanic.

“I am issuing a warning that if Izetbegovic does not withdraw the order that prohibits the sending of my letter to the ICJ, I will issue identical orders to all Serbian ambassadors. That would be the end of the joint diplomatic network of Bosnia,” said Ivanic.

“It was kind of a coup d’etat on the institutions of Bosnia,” Mladen Bosic, deputy chairman of the country’s House of Representatives, chipped in.

Dodik: Bosnia should apologise to Serbia

Republika Srpska president Milorad Dodik also took the opportunity to heighten nationalist rhetoric by claiming the entity's existence was at stake.

“This is not an isolated move by Bakir Izetbegovic – this is a unique policy with the aim of abolishing Republika Srpska,” he said.

“Because of all this, the National Assembly has to define cohesive policies in accordance with our responsibilities. That must be done for the sake of the future, too,” said Dodik.

He said lawmakers should insist that the institutions of Bosnia apologise to Serbia for what Dodik claims was an intolerable gesture of hatred.

He also suggested the abolition of the Office of the High Representative and Peace Implementation Council – the international bodies responsible for overseeing the Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the war of 1992 to 1995.

Civic: Attempts to block the appeal are attempts to hide the truth

Nedim Civic of Domovina, a coalition of Bosniak and Croat political parties in the RS Assembly, said that the 2002 decision of the Bosnian presidency to appoint Sakib Softic was made in accordance with the law, and had never been repealed.

“If this is not true, let Ivanic show us the decision where the Softic is relieved from his duty. An attempt to prevent Softic is an attempt to prevent getting to the truth and punishing those responsible for the genocide against Bosniaks,” said Civic.

After giving the statement, MPs from Domovina left the session, saying they would not be bound by its conclusions.

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