Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

Protesters took to the streets in protests across Europe and the United States to end Bosnia and Herzegovina’s biggest political and security crisis since the 1990s, as Bosnian Serbs threatened to secede and fears grew over a slide into renewal. conflict.

Demonstrations took place on Monday in 35 cities in 14 countries – including Sarajevo, Podgorica, Rome, Brussels, London, New York and Washington, DC – demanding the international community take action to stop the country from breaking up.

The protests, some of which were attended by hundreds of people, were sparked by Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik’s moves to separation.

Last month, the parliament of Republika Srpska passed a series of laws enabling the entity to form its own semi-state institutions and its own army by May.

Many Bosnians are worried as the Bosnian Serb army committed war crimes against the non-Serbian population during the war in Bosnia with the aim of bringing about a Greater Serbia.

A woman at a rally in Brussels holds up a painting showing a Srebrenica mother crying with the message "Never forget 8,372 ..." written at the topA protester holds up a painting showing a crying Mother from Srebrenica at Schuman Square in Brussels, Belgium [Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency]

Dodik’s move, which according to Bosnia and Herzegovina High Representative Christian Schmidt is “no equivalent to secession”, violates the Dayton peace agreement signed in December 1995 which divided the country into two entities – a Serb-led Republika Srpska- entity and a Bosnian Croat dominate federation.

“The survivors of the 1992-1995 war, who were expelled or tortured by the Bosnian Serb army in the concentration camps, as well as many survivors of the Srebrenica genocide is extremely upset, “Platform BIH, the umbrella group in the Netherlands that organizes the protests, said in a statement on Monday.

“The secession of Republika Srpska will be a reward to the Serbs for ethnic cleansing and genocide against Bosnians. Many fear the country is slipping back into divisions and conflicts.

“[Protesters] wants to send a simple message to world officials that divisions and conflicts should not happen again. “They want the EU and the USA to act in a timely manner, preventively, not reactively as in the 1990s,” it reads.

Bosnians and analysts warn that Bosnian authorities must take urgent action to prevent secession, such as defensive preparations and aggressive diplomacy.

Last week, the US new sanctions imposed on Dodik, which has been on the US blacklist since 2017 due to Dodik’s obstruction of the Dayton peace agreement.

But protesters say the EU, which took over responsibility from NATO in 2004 to ensure security in Bosnia, has failed to take adequate steps in response to Dodik’s moves.

“Meanwhile, right-wing leaders such as [Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor] Orban en [Russian President Vladimir] Putin openly supports Dodik, “said Platform BIH.

“Although the office of the High Representative in Bosnia has the power to remove any politician who violates the constitution, current High Representative Christian Schmidt has so far avoided doing so, even though Dodik has repeatedly violated the law.”

Tineke Strik, Member of the European Parliament, spoke during the protest in Brussels and called on the European Union “to stop turning a cold shoulder on Bosnia’s citizens”.

“Come up with a coordinated response, draw up sanctions against Dodik and fully support the restoration of peace and a solid democracy,” she said.

Organizers of the protests have said they will appeal to the Bosnian prosecutor’s office to prosecute all parties and individuals who break the law.

“The West cannot put Bosnia and Herzegovina in the same position [as it was] near the end of 1991, which had parallel institutions and autonomous regions that were in conflict with the state constitution, ”reads their statement.

“It was also an introduction to aggression, persecution, mass war crimes and genocide, for which many of the war criminals were brought to justice by the international courts. Today we want to prevent the history of the 1990s from being repeated. ”

Emir Ramic, director of the Institute for the Study of Genocide Canada, told Al Jazeera that Bosnia’s internationally recognized state borders and sovereignty are protected by international law.

“Therefore, there is no nationalism, no larger state project that has the right to claim parts of Bosnia,” Ramic said.

“Tolerance and coexistence are values ​​that Bosnia has [cultivated] for hundreds of years and it must be defended. ”

Provocations

The protests followed Sunday’s celebrations in Banja Luka, the largest city in Republika Srpska, where a ceremony was held for the autonomous entity’s coup d’etat day – declared illegal and unconstitutional by Bosnia’s constitutional court.

January 9 is the date in 1992 when Bosnian Serbs declared independence in Bosnia, causing the beginning of genocide and ethnic cleansing against the non-Serbian population.

Convicted war criminal Vinko Pandurevic was spotted attending the ceremony with Dodik, as well as the Russian ambassador to Bosnia, Igor Kalabuhov, senior Serbian officials and French right-wing MEPs Thierry Mariani and Herve Juvin.

A special “anti-terrorist” police unit of the Republika Srpska marched and sang: “For the cross, for the cross,” in honor of Serbian medieval rulers.

Over the weekend, Bosnians in both Bosnia and Serbia faced numerous provocations by Serbian nationalists celebrating Orthodox Christmas.

Bosnian media reported on Thursday that in Janja, Republika Srpska, Bosnian Muslims who had left the mosque after early morning prayers had met nationalists firing gunshots from a column of cars.

That night in Priboj, Serbia during Christmas Eve, nationalists were seen celebrating on the streets and shouting: “It’s Christmas, shoot at mosques!”

Priboj, located near the Bosnian border, has a significant Bosnian population.

In Novi Pazar, Serbia – home to a Bosnian Muslim majority population – Serbian nationalists gathered with burning torches and sang songs glorifying Greater Serbia.

In Prijedor, Republika Srpska, Bosnia, Serbian nationalists sang songs in the street praising convicted war criminal Ratko Mladic.

Similar provocations have also been reported in Bosnia’s Brcko, Foca and Gacko.

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