Bosnia’s constitutional court has declared the holiday illegal because it discriminates against Muslim-Bosnian and Catholic-Croatian communities.
Bosnian Serbs have held public celebrations to celebrate their autonomous Serb Republic’s national holiday, which defies a Supreme Court’s ban on the anniversary and US sanctions imposed on its leader Milorad Dodik this week.
The holiday of January 9 commemorates the date in 1992 when Bosnian Serbs declared the creation of their own state in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It sparked a devastating, nearly four-year-long war that killed some 100,000 people.
The date also coincides with a Serbian Orthodox Christian holiday, and it was this religious component that led Bosnia’s constitutional court to declare the holiday illegal, as it discriminated against the region’s Muslim-Bosnian and Catholic-Croatian communities. has.
More than 800 armed police officers took part in the parade on Sunday, including members of anti-terrorist units, gendarmerie and cavalry, who marched with students, war veterans and athletes through the streets of the region’s largest city, Banja Luka.
Crowds of spectators and those marching waved Serbian red, blue and white flags. The members of a special police unit sang songs that referred to the Serbian Republic as the state of Christian heritage.
Liljana Smiljanic of Al Jazeera, reported from Banja Luka, Bosnia, said that although the date was a “holy” one for the Serbs, it meant something completely different to Bosnians.
“They [Bosnian Serbs] say it [January 9 holiday] guarantee freedom for them, and the best conditions for living in Bosnia and Herzegovina. On the other hand, for Bosnians… this is the beginning of the war horrors they endured during the 90s, and later on war crimes and genocide in Srebrenica, ”she added.
The parade and other ceremonies were attended by top officials from neighboring Serbia, including Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and parliamentary speaker Ivica Dacic. Russian and Chinese diplomats in Bosnia and several officials of France’s far-right National Rally Party were also present.
There was no sign of the Serbian regiment of Bosnia’s joint armed forces, which had been deployed to the parade in previous years. Instead, the focus was on the militarized police force, which led the parade with specially designed combat vehicles while helicopters hovered above.
Dodik, who currently serves as the Serbian member of Bosnia’s tripartite inter-ethnic presidency, said “there is no freedom for the Serbian people without the state”, in a speech to the crowd watching the parade.
The pro-Russian nationalist has repeatedly threatened to withdraw the Serbian representatives from Bosnia’s armed forces, tax system and judiciary and create separate Serbian institutions.
Last Wednesday, he was recently punished by the United States for corruption and the threat to the stability and territorial integrity of Bosnia.
The 1995 US-mediated Dayton peace agreement ended three-and-a-half years of ethnic warfare in Bosnia, dividing the Balkans into two autonomous regions – the Serbian Republic and the Bosnian-Croat-dominated Federation.
“Everything he does and announces that he will do is not in accordance with the constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as with the Dayton peace agreement,” Al Jazeera’s Smijanic said.
“It’s a basis for everything here in this country,” she added.
van Dodik secessionist rhetoric of recent months has encouraged Serbian nationalists, who in recent days have provoked incidents across the Republic of Serbia, shot during prayers in the air near mosques, publicly praised convicted war criminals and threatened their Muslim neighbors.
He described Bosnians as “second-class people” and “treacherous converts” who described their “original [Orthodox Christian] faith for dinner ”.