United States embassy in Bosnia's capital Sarajevo condemned on Monday the commemoration of 9 January as the Day of Bosnia’s Republika Srpska (RS) Serb-dominated entity, which the Constitutional Court declared illegal. They also condemned the Sunday’s decoration to Vladimir Putin, warning that "undermining the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina and claims for RS independence will only result in the entity’s destruction."
The following is the statement which the embassy tweeted.
“[RS President] Milorad Dodik’s decision to bestow an award on Vladimir Putin, the man who launched an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine that has resulted in the death of thousands of civilians and the massive destruction of infrastructure, was reprehensible. It was a repudiation of the values of the Euro-Atlantic community and the rules-based international order.
Likewise, Mr. Dodik’s decision to celebrate the Day of Republika Srpska on January 9 is illegal. It violates the BiH Constitutional Court decision that the commemoration is unconstitutional. Article III(3) of the Dayton Constitution is clear: the Republika Srpska must fully comply with the decisions of the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the final and binding ruling of the BiH Constitutional Court, whether RS authorities like them or not.
The calls for RS independence repeated yesterday coupled with specious legal claims about its competencies and attempts to undermine the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina are pushing the country down a dangerous path. The Republika Srpska will only destroy itself and those around it pursuing the will-o-wisp of independence,” the US embassy said.
Marking of 9 Januaryas the Day of Bosnia’s Republika Srpska (RS) entity, which was declared unconstitutional by the state Constitutional Court, already began Sunday in Banja Luka, and on Monday a parade will be held on the streets of East Sarajevo for the first time.
The holiday marks the anniversary of the day in January 1992 when Bosnian Serbs proclaimed their own statelet and secession from Bosnia and Herzegovina, an event which ethnic Bosniaks see as a prelude for the 1992-95 war that took over 100,000 lives, devastated the country, and saw the return of genocide on European soil.
The war eventually ended with a peace agreement brokered in Dayton, Ohio, in 1995, which divided the country into two semi-autonomous regions each covering about half of the country’s territory – the Republika Srpska, with a majority Serb population, and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with mainly ethnic Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats.
Although the holiday was declared unconstitutional by the country’s Constitutional Court in November 2018, authorities in Republika Srpska continue to ignore the ruling, despite criticism from the country’s Bosniaks and the international community.
Bosnia’s Constitutional Court ruled that the holiday was discriminatory against non-Serbs in Republika Srpska because 9 January is also a Serbian Orthodox religious holiday, the day of St. Stephen, the patron saint of the entity. Bosnian Serbs vehemently reject the ruling and even organized a referendum in September 2016, in which the majority of the entity’s citizens voted in favor of keeping the holiday.
The Constitutional Court then declared the referendum itself illegal. However, the Republika Srpska regional Parliament then passed a law which enshrined the holiday as a secular one. That law, in turn, was ruled unconstitutional in March 2019.
Bosnian Serb leaders, who frequently openly call for secession, often ignore the rulings of the Sarajevo-based Constitutional Court.