The international peace envoy to Bosnia and Herzegovina has banned the denial of genocide in fresh amendments to the penal code on Friday. Genocide deniers can now be punished from 6 months to 5 years in prison.
In a rare move by top international officials in Bosnia and Herzegovina since the post was established by the United Nations in 1995, High Representative Valentin Inzko used his executive powers to criminalize the denial of genocide, shortly after the 26th anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide committed by the Bosnian Serb Army of Republika Srpska.
His decision also comes after a Republika Srpska-commissioned report on Srebrenica Genocide concluded that Serbs had not committed genocide in Srebrenica, in contradiction to the rulings of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in 2004 and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2007.
After the 1992-1995 Bosnian War and following the Dayton Agreement, Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina agreed to remain within Bosnia and Herzegovina as separate entities, each with its own local parliament and government overseen by higher central state institutions and a presidency including one member from each ethnicity – Bosniak, Croat and Serb.
The decision has infuriated Republika Srpska’s Belgrade-controlled ultranationalist leader Milorad Dodik, a recidivist genocide denier, who threatened to undo the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“Genocide did not happen in Srebrenica,” Dodik stated in a press conference after the news. “This is the final nail in the coffin of the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Republika Srpska has no choice but to launch the process of dissolution.”
He also launched an online petition, inviting Serbs to reject the new law.
Such law could not be approved in the past as each of the three entities in Bosnia and Herzegovina has a veto power, which can only be trumped by the international peace envoy, although the latter has rarely used this power since 1995.
Glorification of convicted war criminals, and denial of crimes against humanity and war crimes are also punishable, according to the new amendments. Republika Srpska has regularly issued numerous awards to Serbian war criminals, but this is now considered a criminal offense.