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Investigation Launched Into Bosnian Serb Leader's 'Secessionist' Statements

Milorad Dodik
Milorad Dodik

Prosecutors in Bosnia-Herzegovina have launched an investigation of Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik for "undermining the constitutional order" after he announced that the Republika Srpska leadership will soon take measures aimed at withdrawing from key institutions of the Bosnian state.

Dodik said on October 8 that the ethnic Serbian entity will pull out of the Western Balkan state's joint military, top judiciary body, and tax administration. He said several expert groups had been working on drafting the entity's new constitution and laws on defense, judiciary, and finances.

Sasa Sarajlic, a prosecutor in the Bosnian Prosecutor's Office, who supported the formation of the case against Dodik, told RFE/RL that Dodik could face up to five years in prison if convicted.

"This is a criminal offense under the Criminal Code of Bosnia, which states that whoever tries to change the constitutional order of Bosnia-Herzegovina or overthrow its highest institutions by using physical force or threatening to use physical force, shall be punished by imprisonment for at least five years," Sarajlic said on October 18.

Bosnia as a state consists of two entities formed after the 1992-95 war -- the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina with mostly Muslims and Croats and the Republika Srpska with mostly Bosnian Serbs.

Bosnia is still governed under the 1995 Dayton peace agreements that helped end ethnic violence following the breakup of Yugoslavia, including a high representative's post with the power to impose decisions or dismiss officials.

Bosnia's tripartite presidency has three members -- representing Orthodox Serbs, Catholic Croats, and Bosnian Muslims -- and is the commander of the country's armed forces.

Dodik, the Serbian member, has repeatedly called for the secession of Bosnian Serb lands from the rest of Bosnia, which he labeled an "experiment by the international community" and an "impossible, imposed country."

"We are openly working on the project of an independent Republika Srpska within the Dayton agreement," Dodik said on October 12.

However, he has occasionally backed off calls for secession. A year ago, he said Bosnian Serbs were ready to preserve the integrity of Bosnia as a state, but only if they got "more autonomy."

In July, Bosnian Serb political representatives announced a boycott of all major institutions in Bosnia over a decision by the outgoing UN high representative for Bosnia to ban genocide denial related to the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which some 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered by Bosnian Serb forces.

Earlier this month, several thousand people demonstrated in Republika Srpska against government corruption and curbs on media freedom.

Led by opposition parties, protesters on October 2 accused Dodik's ruling party of criminal behavior, cronyism, and corruption.

They also demanded the dismissal of the health minister and hospital managers in the entity over alleged corruption in the procurement of supplies to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, including oxygen used for ventilators.

Dodik was placed under sanctions by the United States in 2016 for actively obstructing efforts to implement the Dayton accords.

With reporting by Reuters

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