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Bosnian Prosecutor Launches Cases Under New Genocide Denial Law

Boris Grubesic, a spokesman for the Bosnian prosecutor's office, said complaints had been received from citizens regarding the denial of genocide. (file photo)

SARAJEVO -- The prosecutor's office of Bosnia-Herzegovina says it has initiated several cases under a new law against the denial of genocide after it received complaints from citizens.

Spokesman Boris Grubesic told RFE/RL's Balkan Service on July 28 that the complaints were filed after Valentin Inzko, the outgoing international High Representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina, used his authority to amend Bosnia's Criminal Code in a way that prohibits and punishes the denial of genocide, crimes against humanity, and other war crimes.

"After the High Representative announced the decision on July 23, in the following days, we have already started receiving reports from several citizens, so some cases have already been opened," Grubesic told RFE/RL. He did not specify how many cases have been opened so far.

The measure came into force on July 28, a day after it was published in Bosnia's Official Gazette.

The prosecutor’s office had said earlier that it would monitor posts on social media networks for statements that deny or minimize cases of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

It said prosecutors also would monitor public statements made by individuals, groups, or associations that violate the new law.

The changes to the country's Criminal Code introduce prison sentences of up to five years for those who deny genocide or glorify war criminals, Inzko's office announced on July 23.

Inzko, who has the authority to impose decisions or dismiss officials, explained the move in an open letter saying that "there is no reconciliation without the recognition of crimes and without responsibility."

The decision immediately drew an angry reaction from Bosnian-Serb leader Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of Bosnia's joint presidency. On July 26, he reiterated his opposition to the decision.

"We will not live in a country where someone can impose a law by simply publishing it on his website," Dodik said.

Dodik also reiterated earlier calls he has made for the dissolution of Bosnia-Herzegovina as a state comprised of two entities -- the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina with mostly Muslims and Croats and the Republika Srpska with mostly Bosnian Serbs.

That political division of Bosnia-Herzegovina was created in 1995 by the U.S.-brokered Dayton Agreements that brought an end to the 1992-1995 Bosnian War.

Dodik said Inzko’s amendments to the Criminal Code should serve as a final push for the secession of Bosnian-Serb lands from the rest of the country.

Dodik during the weekend also repeated his claim that the 1995 Srebrenica genocide in which some 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered by Bosnian Serb forces "did not take place."

That massacre has been deemed as genocide by various verdicts from both the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

In protest at Inzko's genocide-denial amendments, lawmakers in the state parliament of Republika Srpska launched a boycott of the central institutions that hold Bosnia together on July 27.

The Bosnian-Serb legislature is scheduled on July 30 to debate the amendments to the Criminal Code and consider a bill rejecting Inzko's decision to ban genocide denial. The debate is to be held behind closed doors.

Inzko's move came only a week before the end of his term. After 12 years in office Inzko, who is Austrian, is preparing to hand over to Christian Schmidt, a German, on August 1.

It also came shortly after the UN Security Council rejected a draft resolution sponsored by Russia and China that would have eliminated the position of High Representative within a year and would have immediately stripped its powers given in 1997.

Russia and China argued that such powers "are no longer required given the progress achieved by the Bosnian parties."

The text needed nine of the UN Security Council's 15 votes to pass, but only received two -- from Russia and China -- with the other council members abstaining.

With reporting by AFP, dpa, Reuters, and AP