UN is ‘deeply concerned’ about incidents in which individuals have glorified ‘atrocities and convicted war crimes’.
The United Nations has expressed concern over recent incidents of hate speech and incitement to violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Serbia, for fear that inciting acts before elections this year will escalate.
Bosnian Serbs celebrated their national day on Sunday, commemorating the creation of the Republika Srpska (RS) – Bosnia’s Serbian entity declared three decades ago.
It was one of the events that saw the country on the road to the war in Bosnia in the 1990s, which killed some 100,000 people and forced two million others out of their homes.
In a statement On Friday, the spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the UN was “deeply concerned” about incidents that saw individuals “glorify atrocities and condemned war crimes, target certain communities with hate speech, and in some cases directly incite violence”.
Liz Throssell said people sang the name of convicted war criminal Ratko Mladic during torchlight processions, nationalist songs were sung calling for the takeover of places in the former Yugoslavia and in one incident, individuals fired shots into the air outside a mosque.
Local media and victims’ associations have highlighted that several hundred people attended a fireworks display in Foca on Saturday organized by Red Star Belgrade football fans where a large portrait of Mladic was unveiled on a building.
Serbia and Bosnia will hold elections in April and October, respectively, and Throssell warned that “continued inflammatory, nationalist rhetoric” runs the risk of exacerbating an “extremely tense” political environment in 2022.
“These incidents – some in places where large-scale atrocities took place during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, such as Prijedor and Foca – are an insult to survivors, including those who returned to their homes after the conflict,” she said in a statement.
“The failure to prevent and sanction such acts, which fuels a climate of extreme anxiety, fear and insecurity in some communities, is a major obstacle to building trust and reconciliation.”
Throssell’s remarks came as Bosnia faced the worst political crisis since the 1990s, after Bosnian Serbs blocked the work of the central government and threatened Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik with withdrawing from state institutions, including the military, the judiciary and the tax system.
The 1995 US-mediated Dayton peace agreement ended three and a half years of war in Bosnia. The agreement also established Bosnia and Herzegovina as a state consisting of two entities: a Bosnian-Croatian-dominated federation and a Serbian-controlled Republika Srpska.
Dodik is the Serbian member of the Tripartite Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and he threatened to oust Republika Srpska for 15 years.
His recent remarks have spurred fresh sanctions earlier this month from the United States, which accused Dodik of corruption and threatened the stability and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Dodik rejected the measures, saying the sanctions were “lobbied by several US officials who do not share the vision of Bosnia-Herzegovina that I have and which was signed in 1995”.