World, Europe

Bosnian Serbs celebrate Statehood Day defying court ban

In 2015, top court of Bosnia-Herzegovina ruled that celebrations could be discriminatory to other ethnic groups in country

09.01.2019
Bosnian Serbs celebrate Statehood Day defying court ban

By Talha Ozturk

BELGRADE, Serbia

Bosnian Serbs on Wednesday held celebrations to mark the anniversary of the founding of the small entity -- Republika Srpska -- in defiance of Bosnia’s top court ruling.

A parade in northern Banja Luka city -- de facto capital of the entity -- started the celebrations, which was supported by the senior members of the Republika Srpska government.

The city was decorated with Republika Srpska flags. Some 1,000 police officers were on duty for security during the ceremony.

Among the attendants were Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and the Patriarch of Serbian Orthodox Church Irinej.

President of Republika Srpska Zeljka Cvijanovic awarded Brnabic with the medal of “Order of Republika Srpska” -- highest decoration given by the entity.

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic -- who was sentenced to 40 years in prison in 2016 on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity relating to the 1992-1995 Bosnian War -- was also the recipient of the medal.

It was also given to the former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic, Serbian Politician Vojislav Seselj and many others convicted with the war crimes.

Bosnian Serbs consider Jan. 9 to be their small state's most important holiday as its entity has been proclaimed on the territories of Serbian autonomous regions and other Serbian ethnic groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

However, in late November 2015, Bosnia's Constitutional Court ruled that celebrating Dan Republika Srpska [Republika Srpska Statehood Day] could be discriminatory to other ethnic groups in the country.

The Constitutional Court of Bosnia Herzegovina was established by the Dayton peace agreement that ended the Bosnian War in 1995. It consists of two Bosniak, two Serb, two Croat and three foreign judges and its decisions are legally binding.

However, Serbs in Republika Srpska overwhelmingly passed a controversial referendum on a "national holiday" in defiance of Bosnia's highest court in September 2016.

Over 99 percent of voters in the Serb-majority territory chose to make Jan. 9 “Statehood Day” -- fueling fears the referendum could be a first step towards seeking independence from Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country torn apart by violent ethnic conflict in the 1990s.

Prosecutors also summoned Republika Srpska's then leader Milorad Dodik to testify about the controversial referendum on his entity’s “national holiday”.

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