Bosnia introduces prison sentences for genocide deniers

In addition, Belarus continues its crackdown on dissent, Kazakhstan is hit by a spyware scandal, and more.

The big story: Bosnia’s top diplomat criminalizes genocide denial

What happened: Bosnia’s international watchdog banned genocide denial or glorification of war criminals, like giving their names to streets or public institutions, reports the Associated Press. Offenders face up to five years in prison.

More context: Valentin Inzko is the international community high representative for Bosnia, an office established as part of the country’s 1990s peace accord. He has the power to act against decisions or officials that threaten “ethnic balance and reconciliation” between Bosnians (Muslims), Serbs and Bosnian Croats. As he prepares for the end of his term on August 1, Inzko said relations between the groups were deteriorating, citing the continued lionization by Bosnian Serbs of convicted Serbian war criminals. New laws of Inzko, Milorad Dodik, who runs the Serbian-dominated region of Bosnia, said: “The Republika Srpska rejects this, the genocide did not take place, the Serbs must never accept it. Two international tribunals have ruled that the 1995 massacre of more than 8,000 Bosnian men and boys in Srebrenica amounted to genocide. Serbian Interior Minister Aleksandr Vulin said this week that the task of Serbian politicians “is to unite Serbs wherever they live”, echoing the rhetoric of the Greater Serbia of the 1990s that ignited the fuse of the Balkan wars.

Note: the UN Security Council yesterday rejected a proposal from Russia and China abolish the post of high international representative for Bosnia by July 2022, reports Deutsche Welle. German Christian Schmidt will replace Inzko as envoy for peace.

News from the regions

Central Europe and Baltic States

  • Derek Chollet, US State Department Advisor warned Polish officials yesterday that future US investments in their country could be compromised by a refusal to renew the license of news channel TVN24, Reuters reports. Amendments to Poland Broadcasting Act introduced this month by lawmakers in the ruling Law and Justice party would no longer allow companies to outside the European Economic Area control Polish radio and television stations. TVN24 and its sister channel TVN are owned by media company Discovery in the United States. the National Broadcasting Council voted yesterday on the TVN24 license, which expires in September, but the vote was inconclusive.
  • Budapest prosecutors are investigating allegations that Hungarian journalists, businessmen and government critics have been spied on, reports Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. A collaborative inquiry published on Sunday and run by French non-profit media Forbidden Histories, alleges Budapest used military grade spyware NSO Group commercial hackers in Israel to infiltrate the digital devices of its targets. Hungarian investigative journalism media Direkt36, the phones of more than 300 Hungarian nationals could have been the target of an infection. Authorities in Budapest have denied using the Pegasus software “in any way.”

South Eastern Europe

  • Croatia takes steps to protect his tourist season of the worsening coronavirus pandemic, Reuters reports. Starting next week, public gatherings more than 50 people will be banned, with the exception of sporting events, concerts or similar events up to 1,000 people. Those attending larger gatherings will be required to present a vaccination certificate, negative test for coronavirus, or proof of recovery from respiratory disease. Tourism revenues represent approximately 20 percent of the Croatian economy.
Croatia is putting limits on gatherings this summer in a bid to save its crucial tourism industry. Photo by Silverije / Wikimedia Commons.

Eastern Europe and Russia

  • Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka said Minsk will continue its crackdown on civil society activists, whom he has dubbed “bandits and foreign agents,” AP reports. The longtime Belarusian leader also officials reprimanded in his administration for having authorized the functioning of organizations which he described as “harmful to the State”. “A cleanup operation is underway,” Lukashenka said. “Do you think it’s easy?” There are thousands of our employees working for them, and their brains are warped and brainwashed with foreign money. Police and other law enforcement agencies raided more than 200 offices and apartments of journalists and activists in July alone, according to the Viasna human rights center. The heightened oppression continues the fallout from the country’s contested presidential election last year and the major protests that followed.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin was the first to see a prototype of a stealth fighter dubbed “Checkmate” at an air show held outside Moscow on Tuesday, CNN reports. Putin was able to see the prototype of the light single-engine fighter jet at MAKS-2021 International Exhibition of Aeronautics and Space to Zhukovsky before his official unveiling later today. A presentation by the Russian state-owned company United Aircraft Corporation said the fighter prototype is one of a kind and has never been developed before in Russia. Dmitry Stefanovich, a Moscow international security researcher, called it a “game-changing offer in the market”, and said it was likely to be exported to other countries.

The Caucasus

  • The move to online learning during the pandemic led to an increase Cheating, Eurasianet reports, citing Georgian teachers. Giorgi Tsotskolauri, who teaches social work to Tbilisi State University, said that before the pandemic, students were tested under supervision at an exam center, where they could not use any devices. “Now they take their tests at home on their computers. When the test is live, they already have a group chat in Facebook Messenger handy. Someone drops the correct answer there and others pick it up, ”he said. Low vaccination rates and Georgia experiencing another wave of COVID-19 means classes will likely also be held online in the fall.

Central Asia

  • A phone number list leak allegedly infected with spyware suggests that the entire regime of Kazakhstanthe former president of, Nursultan Nazarbaev, was under surveillance, reports the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. Out of nearly 2,000 issues linked to Kazakhstan disclosed to the French media organization Forbidden Stories, the 92 identified include Bulat Utemuratov, once the richest man in the country, as well as his family members and employees; Alibek Kulibayev, the nephew of Nazarbayev’s son-in-law, Timur Kulibayev, and two of his personal assistants; and opposition figure Mukhtar Ablyazov, who has lived in France for years. However, as OCCRP notes, in the absence of forensic analysis, it is not possible to know if these devices have been violated.
  • Tajikistan getting ready to shelter up 100,000 refugees of the neighbor Afghanistan, where the Taliban gained ground with the departure of American troops, reports RFE / RL. Imomali Ibrohimzoda, the first deputy head of the Emergency and Civil Defense Committee, said two large food depots were under construction in the southern Khatlon region. In addition, the authorities in Dushanbe will request international assistance if the number of Afghan refugees exceeds this number. Hundreds of people fled Afghanistan for Tajikistan and Uzbekistan these last weeks. Last week, around 350 ethnic Kyrgyz shepherds from Afghanistan with their families and some 4,000 head of cattle were returned to Afghanistan, ensuring their safety after entering Tajikistan.

About Eleanor Blackburn

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