Bosnian Serbs Plan Challenge to Constitutional Court

Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska plans to hold a potentially divisive referendum challenging the authority of the country’s state-level constitutional court.

This article is also available in: Shqip Македонски Bos/Hrv/Srp

Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik. Photo: SNSD.

Leaders of all Republika Srpska’s main political parties agreed on Sunday to ask the Bosnian Serb National Assembly to initiate a referendum asking people if they support the recent decision by the Constitutional Court to abolish the annual Republic Day holiday celebrating the entity’s foundation.

The political leaders said Republika Srpska would not stop celebrating the holiday despite the ruling and called for changes to the law governing the Constitutional Court’s mandate.

“We believe that the Constitutional Court decision was made with the intervention of international representatives and that there is a need to adopt a law on the Constitutional Court as soon as possible,” Republika Srpska president Milorad Dodik told a press conference after Sunday’s meeting of the parties in Banja Luka.

The challenge to the state-level court’s authority is expected to create further ethnic divisions and draw criticism from the US and EU, the guarantors of the 1995 Dayton peace agreement which created institutions like the Constitutional Court.

The Republic Day holiday on January 9 marks the date in 1992 on which Bosnian Serbs established Republika Srpska.

But the Constitutional Court ruled last week that by celebrating it as a public holiday, Republika Srpska is discriminating against people of other ethnic and religious backgrounds. The court gave the Republika Srpska National Assembly six months to bring the entity’s law into line with the ruling.

The court is made up of three foreign judges, two Bosniaks, two Croats and two Serbian judges.

The vote on the holiday split the court on ethnic lines; it was backed by the three international and two Bosniak judges, who outvoted the two Croat and two Serb judges.

Republika Srpska political leaders also said on Sunday that they would give the Bosnian parliament 120 days to adopt changes to the law to limit the Constitutional Court’s mandate and remove the foreign judges.

If the changes are not made by the deadline, they said they would consider other options, including the possible withdrawal of all Republika Srpska representatives from state institutions.

Marko Pavic, the leader of National Democratic Union party, said the foreign judges were an anachronism.

“The Constitutional Court decision is unacceptable [because] it is a judgment of foreigners whose deadline expired ten years ago,” Pavic told media after Sunday’s meeting.

Banja Luka-based political analyst Tanja Topic said that the Republika Srpska, leaders would not back down, which could create “a very problematic political situation”.

“High political tensions have become the permanent state of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the past ten years, but the recent decisions will have an impact on Bosnia’s reform and European integration processes,” Topic told BIRN.

Danijel Kovacevic

This article is also available in: Shqip Македонски Bos/Hrv/Srp