Bosnian Serb Officials Criticize Charges against Referendum Organizers

Bosnian Serb politicians lambasted the state prosecution for charging members of a commission that organized a referendum on the date of a Republika Srpska entity holiday last year.  The prosecution filed charges against four members of the Republika Srpska Day referendum commission for ignoring the national Constitutional Court’s ruling against holding the referendum and organized it anyway.

The entity citizens were asked in the 2016 referendum whether the RS Day should be observed on January 9.

“According to the charges, instead of acting in accordance with the Constitutional Court’s binding decision on temporary measures and discontinuing all activities related to the implementation of the referendum, through their actions and activities, they continued working, as the commission, on the organisation and implementation of the referendum,” the prosecution said.

However, the investigations into senior officials – the RS president Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of the state presidency Mladen Ivanić, the entity PM Željka Cvijanović and Mirko Šarović, the foreign trade minister on the national Council of Ministers – were dropped.

The speaker of the RS Assembly, Nedeljko Čubrilović, said he expected the charges to be dropped: “It is yet another illogical move of the (state) prosecution about this problem that has troubled the public for over a year. The charges were raised against the people who are least responsible, if the events that led to the referendum are on trial. I hope the judge will (…) throw out the charges and the (defendants) will be acquitted.”

The RS president Dodik said the charges were unacceptable: “It is unheard of that only the RS people are punished for not implementing the (constitutional) court rulings”.

The Serb member in the presidency Ivanić said the charges were “wrong, unnecessary and they will only generate more unnecessary problems in Bosnia.”

“It is evident that no (group) can impose its will on another (group) in Bosnia, which includes the holidays (a group) celebrates or not.”

The banned referendum was a reaction to a 2015 ruling by the Constitutional Court, which ruled that holding the annual Republika Srpska Day on January 9 was discriminatory against non-Serbs in the entity because it was also a Serbian Orthodox religious holiday. On January 9, 1992, Bosnia’s Serbs declared a Serb republic in Bosnia, later on named Republika Srpska, which the Bosniaks see as a precursor to the 1992-1995 war that broke out in April that year.

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