Bosnian Serbs have announced a boycott of all major institutions in response to a ban on genocide denial imposed by the UN peace envoy.
The move effectively blocks the functioning of the country’s vital governing institution: central government, parliament, and tripartite presidency.
The boycott was announced on Monday by Branislav Borenović, one of the political leaders of Bosnian Serb entity Republika Srpska.
“As of tomorrow, Serb political representatives will no longer participate in the work of the common institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina and will not make any decisions until this issue is resolved,” he stated during a press conference.
Last week, UN peace envoy Valentin Inzko imposed a ban on genocide denial in Bosnia, which prompted Serb leaders to fiercely oppose it.
Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, as well as most of Republika Srpska politicians deny the Srebrenica Genocide perpetrated by Serb troops against Bosniak civilians in 1995 – the only genocide recognized in Europe since the Second World War. Serbs killed over 8,000 men and children after capturing Srebrenica. The International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) have recognized the massacre as genocide, but Serb leaders in Republika Srpska as well as in Serbia itself refuse to do the same.
Before Inzko’s ban last week, a Republika Srpska-commissioned report on concluded that Serbs had not committed genocide in Srebrenica.
Milorad Dodik, a genocide denier who leads Republika Srpska under the wing of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, repeated threats for Bosnia’s dissolution if genocide denial is not allowed in the country.
“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.”
Following the ban of genocide denial ism n Bosnia and the fierce threat by his political protégé Milorad Dodik to undo the country, President Vučić, who in the last 20 years has worked to portray himself as a moderate politician internationally, called for talks between Serbs and Bosniaks. He also refuses to recognize the Srebrenica genocide.
Vučić was a member of parliament for a radical nationalist party in Serbia when Serbs conducted genocide against Bosniaks. He personally visited the Bosnian Serb army during the siege of Sarajevo, while at the same time vowed in parliament to kill 100 Bosniak Muslims for every Serb killed in the war.
In 1998, when the Serbian government was engaging in more massacres, this time on Kosovo Albanians, killing over 8,000 of them, President Slobodan Milosevic, nicknamed the Butcher of the Balkans, made Vučić his Minister of Information, launching his career in government.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is composed of two entities – Republika Srpska led by Serbs and the Bosniak-Croat Federation – each with its local parliament, but governed by a central government, parliament, and tripartite presidency.
The division into two entities was decided in 1995 at the Dayton Peace Agreement, following 3 years of war between the various ethnicities that left over 100 thousand killed.
The ban of genocide denial 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.