The United States has urged authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina to investigate ceremonies held over the weekend marking the banned Republika Srpska Day in the country’s Serb-dominated entity.
A State Department spokesperson on January 11 said the U.S. was “deeply concerned over reports of hate speech, glorification of war criminals, and provocative incidents targeting returnees in the Republika Srpska entity” during the ceremonies.
“We urge competent authorities to investigate these incidents without delay and to hold the responsible individuals accountable,” the spokesperson said.
The Republika Srpska on January 9 celebrated what its leaders call their “national day” holiday but what the country’s top court has declared unconstitutional.
The holiday marks the date in 1992 when Bosnian Serbs declared their own state in Bosnia, triggering a four-year war that killed more than 100,000 people and left millions homeless.
Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, the Serbian representative in Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, presided over the celebrations, which included a march by armed police through the main Bosnian Serb city of Banja Luka.
Dodik, who has stoked political division in the Balkan country by repeatedly threatening to withdraw from state-level institutions, last week was hit with sanctions by Washington for “destabilizing and corrupt activities and attempts to dismantle” the 1995 U.S.-brokered Dayton peace accords that ended the war.
The accords created two highly autonomous entities that share some joint institutions: Republika Srpska and the Bosniak-Croat Federation. The country is governed and administered along ethnic lines established by the agreement, with a weak and often dysfunctional central government.
Dodik has described Bosnia as “an experiment by the international community” and an “impossible, imposed country.” He also has said that the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in which some 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered by Bosnian Serb forces “did not take place.”
A day after the ceremonies the European Union threatened Republika Srpska with sanctions and a reduction in assistance if the situation in the country deteriorates.
The State Department spokesperson also noted that while Chinese and Russian diplomats and officials from neighboring Serbia attended the Republika Srpska Day ceremonies, the United States donated 96,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to the central government.