Bosniak member of tripartite presidency Bakir Izetbegović 17 Feb said country will lodge appeal to ICJ to revise its 2007 ruling which exonerated Serbia of direct responsibility for 1995 Srebrenica genocide. Bosnian Serb member of presidency Mladen Ivanić warned such a move would exacerbate ethnic tensions, could provoke crisis; MPs from country’s two largest Serb parties 16 Feb boycotted parliament in protest. Ivanić and President of Republika Srpska (RS) entity Milorad Dodik met with Serbian PM Vučić and President Nikolić in Belgrade 22 Feb; Nikolić said Belgrade “will always stand by the Serbs in Bosnia”, Dodik called ICJ appeal “act of hatred” toward Serbs. Speaking day after official filing of request with ICJ 23 Feb, Ivanic spoke of “serious crisis” and said he will tell ICJ that presidency did not agree on move. RS National Assembly special session late month voted to “reject and strongly condemn” appeal bid, invited Serb representatives in state-level bodies to prevent decision-making. Russian ambassador 12 Feb said RS authorities “fully committed to implementing the Dayton agreement”, reiterated Russian support for Bosnia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
While the physical scars of the 1992-1995 Bosnia war have healed, political agony and ethnic tension persist. Real peace requires a new constitution and bottom-up political change.
Occasional violence notwithstanding, Islamism poses little danger in Bosnia, whose real risk stems from clashing national ideologies, especially as Islamic religious leaders increasingly reply with Bosniak nationalism to renewed Croat and Serb challenges to the state’s territorial integrity.
Only thorough constitutional reform can resolve Bosnia and Herzegovina’s deep political crisis and implement a landmark European Court of Human Rights decision to put an end to ethnic discrimination.
The international community should start a process to close its supervision of Bosnia’s Brčko District at its meeting next week and develop a new strategy to better help domestic institutions address governance challenges and corruption, while retaining the ability to sanction any attempts to undermine security.
If the leaders of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated Republika Srpska (RS) continue driving every conflict with Sarajevo to the brink, they risk disaster for themselves, the country and the Western Balkans.
Bosnia faces its worst crisis since war ended in 1995. Violence is probably not imminent, but there is a real prospect of it in the near future unless all sides pull away from the downward cycle of their maximalist positions.