Bosnian Serbs voted in a referendum [press release, in Serbian] Sunday to maintain January 9 as a national holiday in defiance of a court ruling. The date remembers January 9, 1992, when ethnic Serbians declared their own state within Bosnia and triggered a deadly conflict in which it is estimated 100,000 people died. The Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina had banned the referendum, and had originally ruled that the date should be changed because it discriminated against Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats. Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik [official website], who had set the date [JURIST report] for the vote, said he was proud [press release, in Serbian] of the peaceful manner in which the referendum passed.
Tensions between the ethnic Bosnian and Serbian populations of the former Yugoslavian states continue to be emotionally charged, years after the Balkan war. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [JURIST backgrounder] and the Balkan States continue to prosecute those accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity that left more than 100,000 people dead and millions displaced during the conflict. In March the ICTY acquitted [JURIST report] Vojislav Šešelj, president of the Serbian Radical Party and former Assembly member of Serbia, of all crimes against humanity and war crimes in connection with the Balkan war. In May 2015 the ICTY ordered [JURIST report] Serbia’s justice ministry to return Šešelj to his detention cell immediately [JURIST op-ed] after he was released in February to return to Serbia for cancer treatment. The ICTY had revoked his provisional release [JURIST report] in March 2015 because Šešelj spoke at a news conference in Belgrade and stated [WSJ report] that he would not return voluntarily to The Hague.