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BiH in crisis after Republika Srpska adopts law rejecting Constitutional Court decisions

Flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina; Photo: Flickr/ Jennifer Boyer

On 27 June, the National Assembly of Republika Srpska adopted the Law on the Non-application of Decisions of the BiH Constitutional Court on the territory of Republika Srpska following an emergency procedure.

According to the newly adopted law, the decisions of the BiH Constitutional Court will not be applied and executed on the territory of Republika Srpska until the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH passes the Law on the BiH Constitutional Court. The law foresees that all persons who do not execute the decisions of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina will be protected from criminal liability.

“This is the day when we start a completely new story, it implies that we will have our relationship with the Constitutional Court in this way, as we had the other day with the fake High Representative”, President of Republika Srpska entity Milorad Dodik said.

He added that prison sentences are foreseen for all those from the RS who do not comply with the Law on Non-implementation of decisions of the BiH Constitutional Court.

Harsh reactions of the international community

The adoption of this law caused harsh reactions from the international community.

The High Representative of the International Community for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Christian Schmidt, said on 28 June that the President of the Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, is leading that entity into isolation and announced that he will use all the mechanisms available to him under the Dayton Agreement against his actions.

“Sometimes I wonder what Dodik has in mind as a model for Republika Srpska. Transnistria? He is leading his entity into isolation and I think the time will come when the citizens of Republika Srpska will start asking him questions,” said Šmit, reports N1.

Schmidt was supported by the Embassy of the United States in BiH as well as the British Embassy.

“The Republika Srpska National Assembly carried out a reckless attack on the Dayton Peace Agreement and the BiH Constitution it established by adopting the Law on the Non-Enforcement of Decisions of the Constitutional Court of BiH”, US Embassy to BiH said on Twitter.

“No amount of political rhetoric or misinformation can alter the fundamental fact that Article III (3) of the Dayton Constitution clearly states that the Republika Srpska must fully comply with the decisions of the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which includes final and binding rulings of the BiH Constitutional Court,” the Embassy tweeted.

They noted that the RS cannot unilaterally nullify this obligation; nor can it legally ignore BiH Constitutional Court decisions.

“As we have said before, Serbs are an integral part of a multi-ethnic BiH and have a role to play in shaping the country’s institutions and future. This is enshrined in the Dayton Peace Agreement. If Mr. Dodik prevents the RSNA from nominating two judges to the BiH Constitutional Court, then the Court will reach decisions without the benefit of two judges selected from the RS. Mr. Dodik’s actions will have deprived residents of the Republika Srpska of a voice within a state-level institution provided for in the Dayton Peace Agreement. This is foolish and irresponsible, but it is certainly consistent with Mr. Dodik’s other efforts to deprive Republika Srpska residents of their fundamental freedoms of press, speech, and assembly,” the Embassy said.

The US Embassy also labelled Dodik’s claims that the decisions of the BiH Constitutional Court are illegitimate, anti-Serb and anti-Republika Srpska as „banal and false“.

“This is transparently hypocritical given his refusal to allow any nominations to go forward. In this context, if anyone’s actions are anti-Republika Srpska or anti-Serb, it is Mr. Dodik’s. The RSNA leadership shares the blame for facilitating Mr. Dodik’s unconstitutional and anti-Dayton attacks on the BiH Constitutional Court,” they added.

Additionally, the European Parliament’s Foreign Policy Committee (AFET) adopted a report on Bosnia and Herzegovina, which states that the incendiary rhetoric and secessionist moves of the Republika Srpska leadership are destabilizing the country and jeopardizing its access to EU funds.

OSCE mission in BiH also announced that the decision of the National Assembly to adopt the Law on the non-Application of decisions of the BiH Constitutional Court violates the Dayton Peace Agreement and undermines the Constitution of BiH.

High Representative Schmidt annuls the Law

On 1 July, Christian Schmidt decided to cancel the aforementioned laws passed by the National Assembly of the Republika of Srpska and impose changes to the Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina in such a way that acts that violate the constitutional order of the state are treated as a criminal offense.

Schmidt called on international partners to coordinate sanctions against those who do not respect the Dayton Agreement and stressed that entity assemblies do not have the authority of state institutions. He also stated that his decisions will come into effect immediately, considering that the attack on the constitutional order of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Dayton Agreement was carried out.

A day after Schmidt’s decision, Dodik announced that the Entity Parliament would pass a decision not to accept the decisions of the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and SIPA. On his Twitter account, he also announced a referendum on the secession of Republika Srpska, which could be held by the end of the year.

“We will fight in our own, political way until the law on the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina is passed, which would restore authority to that institution,” he wrote on his Twitter account.

“What Christian Schmidt did yesterday is nothing more than part of a well-designed plan to discipline Republika Srpska, to make its president a monster, an unreasonable person, a man who cannot be talked to, and all of this is supported by the EU in the form of Johannes Sattler”, wrote Dodik.

He concluded that “due to these decisions, the Republika Srpska will continue to act constitutionally” and that he will sign the decrees on the laws passed by the National Assembly.

Dodik: Schmidt is a “false high representative”, Republika Srpska will leave BiH if forced by Sarajevo

“Republika Srpska will not accept any decision of a false high representative,” said Dodik, as reported by RTS.

“Even if he was elected in accordance with the procedures, and he was not, he (Schmidt) does not have the authority to annul the decisions of the National Assembly of Republika Srpska,” added Željka Cvijanović, Serb member of the BiH Presidency.

The representatives of the ruling coalition from the RS emphasized that they will not respect Schmidt’s decisions because he is not a legally elected high representative for them since his appointment was not confirmed in the UN Security Council.

Dodik added that the RS “does not have a secession plan, but if it is forced to leave BiH due to someone’s decisions from Sarajevo, it will do so,” reports Danas.

Schmidt receives international support, “plans for RS without Dodik”

Regional television N1 announced that the leading Western countries are seriously starting to develop scenarios for the first time about what Republika Srpska could look like without Milorad Dodik, as reported by Danas.

Diplomatic sources close to the Western countries told N1 that the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Italy are losing patience and that now for the first time, they are united in the view that Dodik has crossed the red line and that his anti-constitutional moves cannot go unpunished.

It is further stated that official Washington, London, Berlin, Paris, and Rome have the belief that the previously adopted American and British sanctions against Dodik did not stop his attempts to overthrow the state and that it is necessary to move to a new phase of more direct actions aimed at preserving territorial integrity and the Constitution of BiH.

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