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Bosnian Presidency Members Criticize Dodik In Dispute Over International Judges

Milorad Dodik

The Bosniak and Croat members of the multiethnic presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina say they will not agree to a Serb demand to remove international judges from the country's Constitutional Court.

Sefik Dzaferovic, a Bosniak, said on February 19 that a demand by the Serb member of the Bosnian presidency, Milorad Dodik, for the three international judges to be removed from the nine-member court could send Bosnia "into a downfall."

Dodik said the same day that the international judges -- placed on the court by the 1995 Dayton accords that ended the Bosnian War -- are part of the "concept of the breakup...of Republika Srpska" and only work "for the interests of Bosniaks."

Dodik said his party would submit a bill in the coming days that would terminate the foreign judges' mandate and institute the election of only Bosnian judges to the Constitutional Court.

The three international judges -- from Germany, North Macedonia, and Moldova -- serve with two judges each from Bosnia's Bosniak, Croat, and Serb ethnic groups.

Lawmakers in Republika Srpska (RS), the Bosnia Serb entity in Bosnia-Herzegovina, voted on February 17 to suspend the work of all RS officials in Bosnian institutions until the foreign judges are removed from the Constitutional Court.

That vote came after Dodik proclaimed in the RS legislature in Banja Luka, "Goodbye Bosnia, welcome RS Exit," threatening secession by making a reference to Brexit.

Dzaferovic said the Serbs' refusal to work in Bosnian institutions -- which has crippled work in many state bodies -- is a "blow to the constitutional order of Bosnia-Herzegovina."

He added that the Dayton agreement "is not a menu from which you can select only what you like from it."

Dzaferovic urged the Serb officials not to obstruct the government's work and added that a solution cannot be found through "blackmail and pressure."

The third member of Bosnia's presidency, Croat Zeljko Komsic, also spoke out against Dodik's demands.

"He knows that no one in Sarajevo will be fooled by him," he said. "There are procedures. If you think something is unconstitutional, contact the Constitutional Court. That's the rule."

Tensions have flared in Bosnia since the Constitutional Court earlier this month ruled that unclaimed agricultural land became automatically the property of the central Bosnian state rather than Republika Srpska -- contradicting Bosnian Serb law.

Dodik has repeatedly called for a referendum on the status of the Serb-led entity, saying Bosnian Serbs have a right to decide their own future.

Bosnia remains deeply divided along ethnic lines. The country emerged from the 1992-95 Bosnian War as two autonomous regions -- the Bosnian-Croat Federation and Republika Srpska -- united under a weak central government.

Last week, the United States and the EU office in Sarajevo joined Britain, Germany, France, and Italy in saying that “unilateral withdrawal from institutions, or blockages of decision-making within them, are unacceptable and counterproductive."