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The genocide in Srebrenica

In July 1995, during the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnian Serb forces took over the town of Srebrenica, killing over 8,000 people. This was after blocking supplies and the reinforcement of UN peacekeeping forces that had been guarding the town.

Bosnian Serb forces forcibly separated Muslim men and boys from their families. They were taken to various locations where they were later executed, with most of the genocide occurring between 13 and 17 of July.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was an ad-hoc tribunal set up by the UN Security Council in 1993 to try allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide during the Balkans conflicts. The International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals is overseeing the final appeals and cases from the ICTY.

The ICTY or the Residual Mechanism have convicted 16 people for crimes committed in connection with the events in Srebrenica, including genocide. These include Radovan Karadžić (President of the self-proclaimed Republika Srpska and Supreme Commander of its armed forces until July 1996) and Ratko Mladić (Colonel General, Commander of the Main Staff of the Army of Republika Srpska).

Radovan Karadžić had his original sentence of 40 years in prison increased to life in prison on appeal. The UK has agreed that he would serve his sentence in the UK. Reports suggest that he was transferred to the UK in May 2021.

Developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Under the Dayton Peace Agreement signed in 1995, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is a single state, which consists of two political entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, principally comprising the Bosniak (Muslim)- and Croat-majority areas, and Republika Srpska (RS), principally comprising the Serb-majority area.

Bosnian Serbs in the Republika Srpska (RS) have adopted a more assertive separatist stance under the leadership of Milorad Dodik, currently a member of the three-person collective presidency of BiH and previously the President of RS.

In July 2021, the then High Representative for  Bosnia and Herzegovina made amendments to the country’s criminal code to ban the denial of genocide and the glorification of war criminals.  Followed this decision, the Bosnian Serb leadership said they would boycott all major institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In October 2021, the RS authorities passed a law on the non-applicability of the High Representative’s decision, and obliging the RS authorities not to cooperate with institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina attempting to implement State-level law. In December 2021, the RS parliament voted to start work on severing ties with Bosnia’s armed forces, judiciary and tax system. In January 2022, Dodik said RS representatives would only return to BiH state institutions would only occur if references to genocide by RS entities are prohibited.

In late May 2022, Dodik said the time had come “to try once again to activate the mechanism of peaceful dissolution in BiH”. In June he said that the war in Ukraine and its knock-on effects had forced RS leaders to delay plans to withdraw from BiH state institutions.

International Reaction

The USA, UK and EU have condemned Dodik’s actions. The USA and UK have imposed sanctions against Dodik. The EU is split over sanctions, 2022. Germany, other EU Member States and the European Parliament have called for EU sanctions against Dodik, but Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary have opposed sanctions. Hungary has given financial and political support to RS.

The UK Government announced sanctions against Milorad Dodik and the President of RS, Zeljka Cvijanovic in April 2022.  The Government accused Dodik of undermining domestic and regional peace and “encouraging ethnic hatred and genocide denial” while Cvijanovic had publicly glorified war criminals and denied the genocide at Srebrenica.

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