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3 in Bosnia held for vandalizing memorial to Srebrenica genocide victims

Actions on Jan. 9 emblematic of ethnic tensions and drive towards separatism in Balkan country

Talha Ozturk   | 19.01.2022
3 in Bosnia held for vandalizing memorial to Srebrenica genocide victims

BELGRADE, Serbia

Authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina announced on Wednesday that three people were detained for taking provocative actions on the anniversary of Republika Srpska in defiance of a ruling by Bosnia's top court.

The Brcko Autonomous Region Police Department reported that the trio was arrested for vandalizing the monument's memorial to the 1995 Srebrenica genocide victims on Jan. 9, the date of the anniversary.

The country is currently embroiled in a political conflict between Bosniaks and Serbs living in the country, with some Serb leaders pushing for separatism.

The dispute erupted after Valentin Inzko, former high representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, amended the criminal code last July to ban the denial of genocide and the glorification of war criminals.

In response, Bosnian Serb lawmakers said that they would boycott the country's institutions.

On Jan. 9, in defiance of Bosnia's top court verdict, Bosnian Serbs celebrated the anniversary of the foundation of Republika Srpska.

Many cities of Bosnia and Herzegovina witnessed provocative actions, including insults towards Bosniak and non-Serb citizens.

Sindikat, a supporter group in Brcko, used smoke torches to block city streets and vandalized memorials to the victims of the Srebrenica genocide, which claimed nearly 8,400 victims.

Songs inciting ethnic hatred and intolerance, as well as insulting Muslims, were played over loudspeakers in the city of Gacko.

In July 1995, Srebrenica was besieged by Serb troops led by Gen. Ratko Mladic, who was later found guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

Serb forces occupied the area, killing 2,000 men and boys in a single day on July 11.

About 15,000 Srebrenicans fled to the surrounding mountains, but Serb troops hunted down and killed 6,000 more people.

Court order

Many Bosnian Serbs consider Jan. 9 to be their most important holiday.

But in 2015, Bosnia's Constitutional Court ruled that celebrating Republika Srpska Statehood Day could be discriminatory to other ethnic groups in the country.

The Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina was established by the Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the Bosnian War in 1995. It consists of two Bosniaks, two Serbs, two Croats, and three foreign judges and its decisions are legally binding.

However, in 2016 Serbs in Republika Srpska overwhelmingly passed a controversial referendum on a "national holiday."

Over 99% 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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