The Office of the High Representative (OHR) for Bosnia and Herzegovina on Friday introduced amendments to the Bosnia-Herzegovina Criminal Code sanctioning the glorification of war crimes or war criminals and denial of the Bosnian genocide that resulted from the Srebrenica massacre between 1992 and 1996.
The OHR is an international institution created under the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Also known as the Dayton Peace Agreement, it was negotiated in Dayton, Ohio, and signed in Paris in December 1995.
The amendments to the Code have been introduced to adequately address issues of hate speech “manifested through the denial of the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, even when those crimes have already been adjudicated with final and binding judgments reached by a number of domestic and international courts.”
Outgoing High Representative Valentin Inzko condemned the glorification of war criminals, revisionism, or outright denial of genocide and war crimes as constituting renewed humiliation of victims and their loved ones, adding that such actions act as a deterrent to desperately needed reconciliation and ultimately a peaceful and prosperous future for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Inzko also noted that his request to the Republika Srpska National Assembly to withdraw the decorations awarded to three convicted war criminals was rejected.
Inzko further stated:
The citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina have waited many years for their elected representatives to legislate this very serious issue. However, every effort to do so was blocked…I have long hoped for humanity and common sense to prevail, but, regretfully, we are witnessing an escalation of glorification of war criminals, the challenging of the final and binding judgments reached by the Criminal Court established by the United Nations. Apart from the fact that such behaviour constitutes a mockery of the rule of law, I am deeply convinced that it is also sowing the seeds for potential new conflicts…Therefore, as a moral obligation towards the citizens who suffered the horrors of the war, as well as a debt to the young people in this country who were born after the war, I have decided to use the Bonn powers and intervene in the criminal law, to the effect that no glorification of war criminals and no revision of historical facts will in future be possible with impunity.
Noting that domestic authorities have thus far rejected his pleas to distance themselves from war criminals, Inzko said that he could not in good conscience end his term in the current circumstances and that it would be unfair to his successor if he leaves without taking action.
The UN Security Council rejected a resolution put forward by Russia and China just the day before, which would have immediately stripped the OHR’s powers in Bosnia. This decision was welcome by families of the victims and Kada Hotic from the Mothers of Srebrenica and Žepa Enclaves group, who said the law should been introduced earlier. However, Bosnian-Serb leader Milorad Dodik of the Republika Srpska condemned the OHR amendments threatening to launch a process of dissolution of Bosnia.
The prosecutor’s office in Sarajevo said it would monitor any statements by individuals or groups in accordance with the new amendments to the Code.