Opinion

Who undermines fragile peace in BiH?

The situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is becoming increasingly complicated, not just because of the intensification of the armed conflict in Ukraine, but also because of the process of establishment of the government after the general elections in October 2022. At the level of Bosnia and Herzegovina the government was established by the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), Croatian Democratic Union BiH (HDZBiH) and the parties of the so-called 鈥淭rojka鈥 (Social-Democratic Party -SDP, People and Justice -NiP and Our Party -NS). The government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina has still not been established on the basis of the election results from 2018 because of the blockades by the HDZBiH. The imposing of specific articles of the Election Law and the enactment of amendments to the Constitution of the Federation of BiH in the election night by High Representative Christian Schmidt (CSU/EPP), which are directly related to the Federation of BiH, have further complicated and rendered the relations in BiH even more complex.

Although the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) is the winner of the elections at the level of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Federation of BiH and in majority of cantons in the Federation of BiH, the attempt is to eliminate it from the future establishment of the government with the assistance of a part of international community in BiH. This worked in the case of the establishment of the BiH Council of Ministers, while the 30-day deadline for establishment of the Government of the Federation of BiH has still not expired. Anyway, the goal of the 鈥淭ower鈥 intelligence operation, which is coordinated from Budapest is to bring down the economic system of the Federation of BiH as an important step towards the dissolution of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In fact, the establishment of the new Government of the Federation of BiH will be the 鈥渓itmus test鈥 of the (un)successfulness of the 鈥淭ower鈥 intelligence operation.

Analysts warn of the threat that stems from the ignoring of the election winner in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They recalled the situation in (North) Macedonia after the 2006 parliamentary elections, when the winning VMRO-DPMNE from the Macedonian political block took as a coalition partner from the Albanian political block the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA/PDSh), which was defeated at the elections, and not the winning Democratic Union for Integration (DUI/BDI). This additionally increased tensions in the Macedonian society.  

Dodik鈥檚 criminalization of defamation

The Government of Republika Srpska (RS) referred to the RS National Assembly u for urgent procedure the Draft Law on amendments and modifications to the Republika Srpska Criminal Code, which would criminalize defamation and thus jeopardize the already questionable media freedoms and the right to freedom of expression. The draft law was developed secretly and outside the institutions, without consultations with the expert public and media.

As directed by RS President Milorad Dodik (SNSD) the RS Government embarked on a showdown with dissenters and critics of the government, because the proposed Draft Law, which was developed without any public debate or consultations with representative of media or the public, prescribes enormously high fines for defamation. Namely, the amendments criminalize defamation and introduce enormously high fines for damaging someone鈥檚 honor and image in Republika Srpska. The fines go even up to 60.000 EUR and will primarily affect the journalists and media. Such fines were prescribed to avoid introduction of imprisonment sentences. The Constitution of Republika Srpska guarantees to its citizens that they have the right to publicly express their opinion on the work of state and other bodies and organizations, to submit complaints, petitions and proposals and receive a response to them. The aim of the sanctioning must not be enrichment or impoverishment of individuals but primarily satisfaction.

The proponent of the law has evidently violated the rights of citizens enshrined by the Constitution. It is also clear that the Draft law on modifications and amendments to the Republika Srpska Criminal Code had not been developed in accordance with respective regulations, due to what it cannot be referred to parliamentary procedure for adoption and should be returned to the proponent. The issue of defamation is already regulated by the Republika Srpska Law on Protection against Defamation. The question to be asked is why the authorities in Republika Srpska have given the issue of criminalization of defamation the status of urgency and priority.

Analysts believe that it is important to preserve independent and free journalism, as well as freedom of speech, because today BiH is one of the most corrupted countries in Europe and the world, and its judiciary is under strong political influence. Milorad Dodik is a politician who came to the position of the President of Republika Srpska under dubious circumstances, including election theft and election fraud, and with the assistance of a part of the international community, which intervened with the BiH Central Election Commission to legalize the election theft. By European standards Milorad Dodik is a leader in insults and defamation. However, he has never been sanctioned for that so far. This is the ultimate sign of putinization of the RS and a step in the direction of further destabilization of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Milorad Dodik is drawing the entity of Republika Srpska and BiH into the Franco-German plan for normalization of relations and finalization of the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, thus creating an environment for Kosovo to become a successor of the Dayton peace agreement, which authorities in Pristina are already considering.  Montenegro has waived it rights to the Dayton peace agreement in favor of Serbia, and now Kosovo intends to take over that role.  

Violation of religious rights and freedoms

By violating and ignoring the international law, legal acquis of the EU and UN, and using the Republika Srpska police force, Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik (SNSD) is inciting religious conflicts between the Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina (IZBiH) and the Serb Orthodox Church (SPC) and thus trying to cause possible armed conflicts in BiH.

According to analysts, the last two operations of the RS Ministry of Internal Affairs regarding criminal prosecution of two Islamic religious officials of the IZBiH Amir Mahi膰 and Muharem 艩tulanovi膰, bring BiH into the most dangerous phase of a possible conflict, which is initiated by Milorad Dodik, RS President. Dodik ordered the RS police to initiate an investigation against the two IZBiH religious officials who had allegedly insulted orthodox authorities and who had referred to Republika Srpska as a 鈥済enocidal entity鈥. There had been incidents among religious institutions in the past as well. They were resolved, inter alia, through the Interreligious Council (MRV), particularly those related to public statements of heads of religious communities. It is important that in the process religious communities and churches respect each other鈥檚 religious doctrines, which should be presupposed.

In April 2006 representatives of four major religious communities in BiH visited EU institutions and religious organizations within the EU. The then Chair of the Interreligious Council (MRV) Archbishop of Vrhbosna Cardinal Vinko Pulji膰 stated that the Interreligious Council supports the integration of BiH into the EU and aspires to use dialogue to create the process of reconciliation and trust-building. All representatives of the Interreligious Council supported his statement at the time. Today, the Interreligious Council in BiH has been 鈥渆uthanized鈥. The 鈥渃redit鈥 for that goes to the EU as well, as it had ceased to fund projects related to interethnic reconciliation and interreligious dialogue, transitional justice, while simultaneously providing support to the systemic legal paralysis in BiH. Milorad Dodik鈥檚 goal is not just to cause conflicts among religious communities in BiH, through attempts of criminal prosecution of religious officials, but ultimately also to discredit and even criminally process the Reis-ul-ulema of the Islamic Community in BiH Husein Kavazovi膰 - for what he has the support of old and new coalition partners.

The US is sensitive to the issue of religious rights and freedoms because the US was actually build by the people who were oppressed, persecuted and discriminated against because of their religious beliefs. Milorad Dodik is making a strategic mistake, just like Milo 膼ukanovi膰 (DPS) did when he wrongly assessed how the US would respond to the adopted Law on freedom of religion, which was discriminating against the Serb Orthodox Church in Montenegro. The US never expressed opposition against mass litanies of Orthodox believers and other citizens who opposed violation of religious rights and freedoms by Milo 膼ukanovi膰鈥檚 regime. In fact, clear and unambiguous support of the US administration was extended to the exercise of religious rights and freedoms in Montenegro. Another testimony of the importance of religious rights and freedoms is the fact that last year US President Joseph Biden proclaimed 16 January as Religious Freedom Day.

Analysts believe that Milorad Dodik should be a champion and proponent of harmony of interethnic and inter-confessional relations, just like Montenegrin Prime Minister Dritan Abazovi膰 (URA), an ethnic Albanian and a Muslim by confession, who had signed the Fundamental Agreement between the Serb Orthodox Church (SPC) and the state of Montenegro. Using the same analogy, Milorad Dodik as an ethnic Serb and an Orthodox by confession, should be the proponent and biggest advocate of the signing of the Agreement between the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Islamic Community in BiH, not the opposite.  

According to the US Report on religious freedoms in 2021, the Interreligious Council in BiH had recorded 26 attacks on religious officials and facilities.  

Putinians take over BiH institutions- undermining of fragile peace

At the time of invasion by the Russian federation on Ukraine, the Office of the High Representative (OHR), EU and member countries of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC)  brought Milorad Dodik to power at the entity and national level -even after he had awarded Russian President Vladimir Putin. They even allowed putinians Milorad Dodik (SNSD) and Dragan 膶ovi膰 (HDZBiH) to appoint their party members without appointment of the candidates of the so-called pro-Bosnian parties, which will result in additional requests by the two putinians. In his testimony  before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the UK Parliament, Edward P. Joseph, former OSCE Senior Deputy Head of Mission in Kosovo, said that as since the departure of Paddy Ashdown, Milorad Dodik had remained unsanctioned it was only logical that as a result you got Dragan 膶ovi膰 and their collusion.

Western states are repeating the same mistake from the nineties of the last century when they believed that by making concessions and awarding the policies of Slobodan Milo拧evi膰, Franjo Tu膽man, Radovan Karad啪i膰 and Mate Boban they can resolve the issue of BiH. Just like in the nineties of the last century, the Western public is currently continuously opposing the decisions of their authorities, starting from the European Parliament, national parliaments and governments, through petitions, as well as responses of international intellectuals and nongovernmental organizations dealing with protection and affirmation of human rights and freedoms. The latest reaction by German diplomats and former employees of the OHR, who sent a letter to the German Bundestag requesting removal of Christian Schmidt from the position of High Representative in BiH, is just a tip of the iceberg. According to available information, documents are being prepared within the EU which will expose trading in influence in the case of decisions of High Representative Schmidt in relation to modifications of the election law and the respective influence of Croatia, about which Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovi膰 (HDZ/EPP) boasted on a number of occasions.  Purportedly, there is a number of scandals involved which are not exclusively related to 鈥渜uantifiable or political concessions.鈥 IFIMES has been continuously warning about the high corruption risks in the EU, which have now reflected on BiH, including the undermining of the Dayton peace agreement and the fragile peace in BiH. High Representative Christian Schmidt and EU Head of Mission in BiH Johann Sattler are the persons formally most responsible for the systemic legal imploding erosion of BiH and undermining of fragile peace in BiH.

Analysts believe that the support provided by the West to Dodik and 膶ovi膰 in the systemic constitutional-legal obstruction of BiH actually undermines the fragile peace in BiH. Although the Russian invasion on Ukraine constitutes a direct danger of a conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the Western Balkans, key dangers for BiH still come from some EU and NATO member countries. Putinians now have institutional control of BiH institutions and that is primarily a 鈥渟uccess鈥 of western countries.

Dodik鈥檚 version of 鈥淲agnerians鈥

Dodik has put all private security services under his control. The Prointer Company bought the company of the killed Slavi拧a Kruni膰, Sector Security, and controls all other similar companies (Wolf Security et al.), which together constitute his parallel intelligence and security service. They are Dodik鈥檚 version of 鈥淲agnerians鈥. Furthermore, in Elektroprivreda RS  /RS Power Supply Company/ he installed a group of more than 50 highly trained IT experts, who conduct propaganda activities on social networks for him and Russian intelligence services, all during their working hours and  as employees of the company. Through the M:TEL telecom operator he monitors and keeps under surveillance the opposition, free media and civil society, and well as communication of representatives of the international community in BiH. The authorities also control the supporters鈥 associations in the RS and use them to put pressure, threaten and intimidate opponents of the regime, as well as civil society and the opposition.

Analysts believe that it is necessary to clearly expose Dodik鈥檚 full orientation towards Putin and Russia, as well as the risks to the region that stem from it. The idea of secession of the RS from BiH is now more topical than ever before. In addition to Russia, there is also a group of some 30 countries that have expressed readiness to recognize RS as an independent state.  

Christian Schmidt 鈥 debacle of German policy in BiH

The (un)deliberate omissions by High Representative Schmidt and the Head of the EU Mission in BiH Sattler regarding violation and non-application of international law, legal acquis of the EU and UN, political blockades and obstructions of Annex B of the Revised National War Crimes Strategy, are evident.

Reports filed by Valentin Inzko, former High Representative in BiH, can be used as a positive example of reporting to the UN Security Council and the EU on the situation in BiH, despite the fact that Inzko was not effective because of the known stances of his superiors. Sattler, EU Special Representative,  is not doing his job and does not report on the true situation in BiH and actions that Milorad Dodik implements through the RS National Assembly and the RS Government, starting from the unconstitutional transfer of competences to the entities from the state level, the decisions pertaining to sovereignty of BiH, to actions related to state property and a number of laws, which undermine not just BiH and the fragile peace in BiH  but are also contrary to the entire EU legal acquis and universal human rights and freedoms. A particular concern is the non-implementation of all the rendered judgments of the European Human Rights Court, primarily the 鈥淪ejdi膰-Finci鈥 judgment. The investigation that is currently underway will show whether Sattler does not report on Dodik鈥檚 actions because of his own political stances or is he, just like High Representative Schmidt, at a high risk of corruption. What is particularly intriguing is the Sattler鈥檚 stance on the Croatian National Assembly (HNS), that is the HDZBiH, which uses HNS to announce on daily basis both 鈥渨ar and peace鈥 in BiH. Maybe the pending document on trading in influence within the EU regarding Croatian engagement in relation to BiH will shed more light on the role of Sattler, as well as previous EU representatives in BiH. The list of legal (in)actions or omissions to undertake actions, which have directly influenced the undermining of fragile peace in BiH, is rather extensive.

In addition to High Representative Schmidt and a part of US administration, the EU Special Representative in BiH Sattler also has a very negative role because he allows the legal paralysis of BiH. Furthermore, he also played a role in the non-incorporation of final and binding judgments of the ICTY into the legal system of BiH and official records of BiH, which was directly blocked by the HDZBiH and Dragan 膶ovi膰. Non-incorporation of final and binding judgments is directly related to the non-implementation of the 鈥淚nzko鈥檚 law鈥 on denial of the crime of genocide. The latest denials of genocide by Milorad Dodik in relation to the final judgments of the ICTY, which are encompassed by 鈥淚nzko鈥檚 decision鈥, and the crime at the Markale market in Sarajevo are proof that the EU has given up on the legacy of the ICTY, which had rendered its final and binding decisions regarding genocide, joint criminal enterprises and the involvement of Serbia and Croatia in the war in BiH.

The Dobrovolja膷ka prosecution case, related to the attack on the JNA military convoy in May 1992, is a product of violation and non-application of international law, legal acquis of the EU and UN, political blockades and obstructions of Annex B of the Revised National War Crimes Strategy.

The pressing of charges for the alleged crimes, committed by individuals from the civilian, military and police leadership of the then Republic of BiH, after the Hague Office of the Prosecutor had provided its stance and opinion, is a part of systemic legal disrespect of international legal acquis and abuse of national law. Namely, charges were pressed after foreign prosecutors engaged in the BiH Office of the Prosecutor had also concluded that there was no reasonable suspicion that the attack on the JNA convoy in May 1992 was a war crime, because a military convoy is a legitimate military target. Instead of focusing prosecution resources on Annex B of the Revised National Strategy and complying with the directives of the International Residual Mechanisms from the report of Judge Joanne Korner, the BiH Office of the Prosecutor focused it capacities on charges against the leadership of the Republic of BiH using the documents that the Military Court from Belgrade had provided to the Hague tribunal in 2001. In fact, this case is the best illustration of the absence of action of the international community, which supports violation and non-application of international law, EU and UN legal acquis, as well as political blockades and obstruction of Annex B of the Revised National Strategy for Persecution of War Criminals.

Such an approach by the first men of the international community Christian Schmidt and Johann Sattler, not only undermine the sovereignty of BiH but also contributes to a possible armed conflict in BiH. The legal paralysis and erosion of the legal acquis of the EU and UN, and particularly the legacy of UN tribunals and courts, informed a change in the conceptual approach to BiH by the so-called pro-Bosnian parties in BiH. While Western representatives advocate and insists on a concept of BiH founded on international law and legal acquis, in practice a Russian approach is being applied. The recent attempts to present alleged radicalism lead to further divisions within the so-called pro-Bosnian political block and strengthen the position of the SDA, which has not even tried to reform itself into a modern conservative party. The overall responsibility for the very difficult situation in the country rests with the SDA as well, primarily because of its decades-long neglecting of development of BiH institutions, negative personnel /selection and appointment/ policy, absence of fight against crime and corruption, as well as permanently very unclear foreign policy in which it did not ensure strategic alliances with friendly countries in the West or the Islamic world. Analysts believe that in the last five years an opportunity was missed to join NATO, which is a result of poor work of the BiH Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Almost all presidents of political parties that are a part of the block of parties which are against the SDA and the Democratic Front (DF) have managed to get a position at the state level or await a position at the FBiH level - apart from Fahrudin Radon膷i膰 (SBB). The fact is that not one of these leaders, specifically Nermin Nik拧i膰 (SDP), Elmedin Konakovi膰 (NiP), Edin Forto (NS), Semir Efendi膰 (SBiH) and others did not dare to run against Bakir Izetbegovi膰 (SDA) at the direct elections. These facts are also a testimony that representatives of the international community ignore and do not apply in Bosnia and Herzegovina international standards, international law and legal acquis of the EU and UN.  

Golob鈥檚 visit an important moment for BiH

In December 2022, at an EU summit Bosnia and Herzegovina was awarded a (conditional) candidate status for the EU. Geopolitical reasons and the Russian invasion on Ukraine were the key reasons why BiH was given the EU candidate status. However, the engagement of true friends of BiH such as Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia Robert Golob, significantly contributed to the award of the EU candidate status. This is particularly important bearing in mind that his predecessor Janez Jan拧a (SDS/EPP) was associated with some 鈥渘on-papers鈥 that envisaged disappearance of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Furthermore, Janez Jan拧a and other like-minded people in EU institutions blocked the introduction of sanctions against Milorad Dodik. On the other side, Dodik blocked investigations in BiH related to the funding of Jan拧a鈥檚 Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS). Under Janez Jan拧a鈥檚 leadership Slovenia did not pursue a friendly policy towards BiH and was a part of the 鈥渁xis of evil鈥 against BiH, primarily with Croatia and Hungary. Bosnia and Herzegovina became an area of operations of the radical European right wing, one of whose exponents is also High Representative Christian Schmidt, who comes from the circles close to Christian fundamentalists. European crime of enormous scale is present in BiH. That is why it is important to conduct in BiH a professional, independent and unbiased investigation into dubious financial transactions associated with the funding of the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) headed by Janez Jan拧a. Judging by everything, the dubious funding informed the results of the 2018 parliamentary elections in Slovenia. However, there are some other dubious deals and transactions as well.

Analysts believe that the visit by Slovenian Prime Minister Robert Golob is an important moment for Bosnia and Herzegovina and comes at the right time, because he is a true friend of BiH and a politician who shows responsibility for the situation in the Western Balkan region and strongly supports accelerated path to membership in the EU and NATO, not just of Bosnia and Herzegovina but the entire Western Balkans.

IFIMES 鈥 The International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) from Ljubljana, Slovenia, has a special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)/UN since 2018.