Bosnian Serb lawmakers nix ban on Srebrenica genocide denial

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Bosnian Serb lawmakers on Friday overwhelmingly rejected a ban on genocide denial introduced by the top international official in Bosnia, in an act of defiance likely to fuel tensions in the ethnically-divided Balkan nation.

The assembly of Republika Srpska, the Serb-run entity in Bosnia, also passed legal changes introducing prison terms of up to 15 years for calling the Serb territory a “genocidal creation” or for disrespect of its symbols, independence and territory, Klix news site reported.

The move reflects Serb opposition to the Bosnian law amendments imposed last week by Valentin Inzko, the outgoing High Representative in Bosnia. The amendments aimed to outlaw attempts at minimizing the scope of the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica, Europe’s only post-war genocide.

The official Bosnian Serb television channel said Friday’s vote was unanimous and presented “response and protection” from Inzko’s genocide denial ban.

It was also seen as a show of unity behind nationalist Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, who advocates the separation of Bosnian Serbs from Bosnia.

Both the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court for Former Yugoslavia declared the Bosnian Serb killings of more than 8,000 Bosniaks in Srebrenica during the Bosnian War as genocide.

But Bosnian Serb officials and officials in neighboring Serbia have refused to accept the designation.

As the top international body overseeing implementation of the peace agreement that ended Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, the Office of High Representative has the authority to impose decisions or dismiss officials who undermine the post-war ethnic balance and reconciliation efforts among the Bosniaks, who are mostly Muslim, Bosnian Serbs and Croats.

Inzko also banned the glorification of war criminals. He was appalled that Bosnian Serbs widely honor their wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic and military commander Ratko Mladic as heroes, though both have been convicted of genocide and sentenced to life in prison by the Hague-based tribunal.

“Inzko’s decision will not be possible,” Bosnian Serb parliament speaker Nedeljko Sarovic said after Friday’s vote. “It was wrong, unnecessary and it complicated the situation in Bosnia.”

The genocide in Srebrenica happened after Bosnian Serbs took control over the eastern enclave in July 1995. They executed Bosniak men and boys and dumped their remains into mass graves which were later dug up and reburied to cover the crime. The victims’ remains are still being unearthed and identified.

Inzko is leaving his post on Saturday following his resignation in May after 12 years in office. He will be succeeded by Christian Schmidt of Germany.

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