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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

Talha Ozturk   | 10.01.2022
Bosnian Serbs celebrate statehood day defying court ban

BELGRADE, Serbia

Bosnian Serbs 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 – the administrative capital of the entity – started the celebrations on Sunday, which was supported by the senior members of the Republika Srpska government.

The city was decorated with Republika Srpska flags. A huge number of police personnel were deployed for security.

Among the attendants were Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic together and ministers from her Cabinet, Russian Ambassador Igor Kalbuhov, and far-right French deputies.

In total, the event hosted 2,700 people.

One more ceremony was held on Sunday with the participation of Patriarch Porfirij of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Meanwhile, in many cities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, particularly Gacko, Foca, Prijedor, Brcko, and Janja, some provocative acts were also reported, including insults against Bosniak and non-Serb citizens.

In Brcko, the supporter group, Sindikat, blocked the streets of the city with smoke torches and damaged monuments honoring the Srebrenica genocide victims.

In Prijedor, a group of citizens sang songs in honor of war criminal Ratko Mladic.

In Gacko city, songs featuring expressions that incite hatred and intolerance among ethnic groups and insulting Muslims were played on loudspeakers.

Backlash

Ramiz Salkic, vice president of the Republika Srpska, said in a statement that the celebrations were illegal.

“The 9 January Republika Srpska day is illegal. The Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina has declared this day illegal,” said Salkic.

Semsudin Mehmedovic, one of the founders of the Bosnian Democratic Action Party (SDA), said that the day marks the beginning of genocides in Bosnia.

“I also believe that January 9 should be commemorated. However, January 9 should not be commemorated as the day of the Republika Srpska, but as the date when genocides began in Bosnia and Herzegovina. January 9 should be declared as the day of genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Mehmedovic said on social media.

Brcko Mayor Esed Kadric told Anadolu Agency that the law and order situation in the city is under control and that certain people resorted to extreme actions on the pretext of celebration.

Court order

Bosnian Serbs consider Jan. 9 to be their small state's most important holiday.

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

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 summed up Republika Srpska's then-leader Milorad Dodik to testify about the controversial referendum on his entity's "national holiday."

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