SREBRENICA TO SECEDE FROM SERB ENTITY
Responding to an ICJ [International Court of Justice] ruling that found the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica constituted genocide, Bosniak and Croat leaders have been calling for the town to be removed from Bosnian Serb Entity Republika Srpska’s [RS] authority.
By Vlatko Vukotic
The International Criminal Court of Justice’s ruling earlier this month on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s (BiH) genocide case against Serbia has fueled tension on the BiH political scene. The court found that the mass killings at Srebrenica in 1995 constituted genocide and that Serbia had breached the genocide convention by failing to prevent them. However, it acquitted Serbia of direct responsibility.
In the aftermath of the ruling, Bosniak leaders are calling for Srebrenica to secede from the Bosnian Serb entity, Republika Srpska (RS).
“The territory of the Srebrenica municipality needs to have the status of district and as such should be taken out of the jurisdiction of the Republika Srpska institutions,” the Bosniak and Croat members of the BiH presidency, Haris Silajdzic and Zeljko Komsic, said in a statement.
“We are entitled to justice.”
A special meeting on the issue, held March 12th, was attended by ambassadors and representatives from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Libya and the Palestinian Authority. Participants concluded that state and entitiy institutions are obliged to make decisions to implement the ICJ verdict.
RS authorities say any attempt to change the status of Srebrenica would be a violation of the Dayton Peace Agreement and the RS Constitution. They charge that state politicians are exploiting the issue in order to gain a better position in negotiations on police and constitutional reforms.
“Some politicians [are trying to] destroy RS. It is time for them to change their opinion and to turn to economic development that will lead this country towards Europe,” says RS President Milan Jelic.
According to the Peace Implementation Committee, municipal status in BiH is determined by constitutions and relevant state and entity legislation. Any changes, it says, would have to take place within this framework.
German Ambassador Michael Schmunk, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said he did not attend the meeting in Srebrenica because he thought it would not be wise in a situation that is “emotionally heated”.
Prior to the conflicts of the 1990s, Srebrenica’s population was over 75% Muslim, while Serbs constituted just over 22%. Today, however, it is mostly a Serb town. Bosniaks who have remained say the ICJ ruling means that the Serbs should not have authority and that the town should handle its own affairs. The group has threatened to leave if their demand is not met.
Serbian representatives in Srebrenica oppose the secession, and request that international donors pledge more support. Even though they represent the majority in Srebrenica, the Serbs say they receive less financial support that the Bosniak residents.
Both RS and the Federation of BiH have pledged additional support.
The Office of High Representative [OHR] says the Srebrenica municipality resolution on separation from the Republic of Srpska (RS) was unconstitutional.
The resolution adopted by Bosniak members of the municipal assembly was a legal act which exceeded the responsibilities of the municipality as defined by the RS Constitution and the RS Law on Local Self Government and the Municipal Statute, the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia said in a statement published on its web site.
“Institutions at the various levels of Government have the capacity to address the situation and should do so without delay,” the statement added.
“The OHR is particularly concerned about the threat to unilaterally pass a decision on separation of the Municipality from the RS. If the municipal assembly were to act on this, the High Representative would have no choice but to take robust action,” the statement continued.
The statement added that any change to Srebrenica’s status was a matter for the RS and Bosnia-Herzegovina authorities, as well as that the OHR would be informing the municipal, entity and Bosnian authorities of its view on the matter.