The countdown to referendum begins
Another of my Bosnia-watching friends (I’ve got many) offers the following:
On April 13th, RS President Milorad Dodik asked a special session of the RS National Assembly to hold a referendum on allegedly imposed laws and alleged human rights violations committed by the High Representatives. Dodik’s 50 minute speech to the Republika Srpska National Assembly (RSNA) – both in tone and content – sounded troublingly similar to speeches given by ultra-nationalist politicians immediately prior to the outbreak of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992. The speech’s first paragraph mentioned chopped-off heads, concentration camps, mujahedeen, jihad, Al Qaeda and global terrorism. During the course of the speech, Dodik mentioned crossing the Rubicon three times. In this regard, the speech represented a political Rubicon for Dodik, in that he left himself no way to back down from this position. Later that same evening, the RSNA adopted conclusions that included a referendum measure.
Five additional conclusions proposed by other political parties were adopted. One conclusion said that the RSNA requests the RS Government, RS bodies and institutions to accept RS Supreme Court decisions as final in cases in which they are one of the parties. This is a de facto repudiation of the authority of the BiH Constitutional Court, an Annex 4 Dayton institution. In other conclusions, the RSNA deemed the High Representative’s suspension of the Central Election Commission ruling illegal and that therefore, the Federation government authorities are illegal, i.e. Republika Srpska will not recognize Federation authorities. It also voted to create a fund to support the families of war crimes’ indictees.
The referendum question the RSNA adopted is: “Do you support the laws imposed by the High Representative of the International Community in BiH, especially those pertaining to the Court of BiH and BiH Prosecutor’s Office, as well as their unconstitutional verification in the BiH Parliamentary Assembly”? As the reader may notice, the tendentious manner in which the referendum question is written tells the voter how to answer. The date of the referendum is in the first week following 45 days from the day that the decision takes effect, which is one day after publication in the RS Official Gazette. This could be delayed by weeks or even months, depending on whether the Bosniak Caucus in the RS Council of Peoples invokes the Vital National Interest provision and refers the matter to the RS Constitutional Court.
The referendum question relates to the State Judges and Prosecutors, as well as the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council, all institutions that the international community went to great effort and expense to create. Among other things, these institutions are crucial to the ICTY war crimes strategy and international efforts to help the countries in the Western Balkans process war crimes cases in an effective manner. Two days after his speech, Dodik went on RTRS and outlined what he intended to do after the referendum: “After the people have voted in the RS, we will ask the National Assembly to reconvene to adopt new laws that will repeal all the anti-Dayton and unconstitutional decisions and laws which have been imposed by the High Representative”. This means Dodik clearly intends to undo everything that has been built up since 1996.
The special session was entitled A Discussion on the Consequences of the Anti-DPA and Unconstitutional Establishment of Judiciary at BiH Level and (Non)-Activity of the BiH Prosecutor’s Office and the Court of BiH in War Crimes. The first 23 conclusions accused the BiH Court and Prosecutor of selectivity in their work at the expense of Serbs and of generating ethnic hatred; challenged the retroactive application of the BiH Criminal Code to war crimes; argued that Republika Srpska did not agree to the transfer of competencies establishing the BiH Court and Prosecutor; rejected the authority of the BiH Parliament to adopt legislation on matters for the signatories of the Dayton Peace Agreement; rejected the authority of the High Representative to impose legislation outside the competencies of the Presidency and Council of Ministers; and demand that the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council be established at the entity level and the judicial and prosecutorial aspects be separated. Dodik called the special session on 31 March, after presenting a 61-page document relating primarily to the work of institutions involved in the search for the missing and prosecuting war crimes. In the intervening period, media close to the RS Government supported Dodik and reported extensively the document’s distorted accusations as fact. Dodik also sought – and received – the backing of the RS Senate, an appointed consultative body – for his initiative at a 12 April session.
PS: Today the Hague Tribunal convicted two Croatian generals of crimes against Serbs in 1995, once again giving the lie to Dodik’s frequent complaints that the Tribunal is biased against Serbs. Don’t expect Dodik to take notice.