SARAJEVO (Reuters) -- The international peace envoy in Bosnia has accused the parliament of the country's Serb region of violating the peace agreement that ended the 1992-95 war by undermining his authority granted under UN resolutions.
A new row between envoy Valentin Inzko and separatist Bosnian Serbs erupted on December 28 when the Serb Republic parliament rejected his ruling to extend the mandate of foreign lawyers at the Bosnian war crimes court, deciding to call a referendum on the issue.
Postwar Bosnia is made up of two highly autonomous regions, the Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat federation, linked via a weak central government.
"Conclusions that negate the legal framework regulating Bosnia-Herzegovina judicial institutions, including issues regarding cooperation with the ICTY, are a direct attack to the very concept of the rule of law," Inzko said late on December 29.
Opposition and some analysts see a new confrontation between the Bosnian Serb leadership and the international community as the launch of a campaign that would divert Serb voters' attention from economic troubles ahead of the general election in October 2010.
An increase in tensions might also further destabilize the country ahead the election, something which could strengthen support for Serb Republic Prime Minister Milorad Dodik who will campaign for the defense of rights for Serbs.
The Bosnian Serbs deny the authority of an international envoy to impose laws or fire officials when seen necessary for the country's progress. They have already challenged some Inzko's decisions earlier this year.
Inzko overruled the national parliament this month and extended the mandate of foreign judges and prosecutors at the war crimes chamber, saying it was required by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
Foreign judges were brought to the Bosnian state court when it was opened in 2002 to help alleviate burden from the ICTY and handle mid- and low-ranking war crimes cases. They are seen as a guarantee of the court's independence in the ethnically divided country.
Inzko has said that Bosnian authorities have failed to secure local replacement for foreign jurists dealing with loads of war crimes cases, whose mandate expires at the end of December. He also decided to keep foreign advisers at the court's division for organized crime, corruption, and terrorism.
But Bosnian Serbs, who see them as biased against the Serbs, said they would not accept nor implement the Inzko's ruling and would question it in a referendum in spring next year.
Inzko, who has said that such a referendum would be legally nonbinding, said the Serb Republic government and parliament have violated the terms of the peace agreement and several United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Dodik, however, said his region would proceed with organizing a referendum.