SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina (AP) – Bosnian Serb lawmakers overwhelmingly rejected on Friday the ban on genocide denial introduced by Bosnia’s top international official, in an act of defiance that could fuel tensions in the ethnically divided Balkan nation.
The assembly of Republika Srpska, the Serb-led entity in Bosnia, also passed legal amendments introducing prison terms of up to 15 years for labeling Serbian territory “genocidal creation” or for lacking of respect to its symbols, its independence and its territory, Klix news site reported.
The move reflects Serbian opposition to amendments to Bosnian law imposed last week by Valentin Inzko, the outgoing high representative in Bosnia. The amendments were intended to ban attempts to downplay the scale of the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica, the only post-war genocide in Europe.
The official Bosnian Serbian TV station said Friday’s vote was unanimous and presented “a response and protection” to Inzko’s ban on Holocaust denial.
He was also seen as a show of unity behind Bosnian Serb nationalist leader Milorad Dodik, who advocates the separation of the Bosnian Serbs from Bosnia.
Political cartoons about world leaders
The International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia have declared the murder of over 8,000 Bosnians by Bosnian Serbs in Srebrenica during the Bosnian War as genocide.
But Bosnian Serb officials and officials from neighboring Serbia refused to accept the designation.
As the main international body charged with overseeing the implementation of the peace agreement that ended the Bosnian war from 1992 to 1995, the Office of the High Representative has the power to impose decisions or revoke officials who undermine the post-war ethnic balance and reconciliation efforts between Bosnians, who are predominantly Muslims, Bosnian Serbs and Croats.
Inzko also banned the glorification of war criminals. He was dismayed that the Bosnian Serbs widely honor their political warlord Radovan Karadzic and their military commander Ratko Mladic as heroes, despite both having been convicted of genocide and sentenced to life in prison by the court based in The Hague.
“Inzko’s decision will not be possible,” Bosnian Serb parliament speaker Nedeljko Sarovic said after Friday’s vote. “It was wrong, unnecessary and it complicated the situation in Bosnia.”
The Srebrenica genocide occurred after the Bosnian Serbs took control of the eastern enclave in July 1995. They executed Bosnian men and boys and dumped their remains in mass graves which were then dug up. and re-buried to cover up the crime. The remains of the victims are still being exhumed and identified.
Inzko is leaving his post on Saturday after his resignation in May after 12 years in office. He will be replaced by the German Christian Schmidt.
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.