Bosnian Serbs dismiss top court's order to change discriminatory law

by Reuters
Sunday, 29 November 2015 22:33 GMT

* Serbs say will not change discriminatory holidays law

* Accuse the court of making political decisions

* Warn of referendum, political blockades

By Gordana Katana

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Bosnian Serb political leaders declared on Sunday they would not obey a ruling by Bosnia's top court to change a holidays law discriminating against other ethnic groups, dismissing the court as a "political body" which brings "political acts".

"We are not giving up on the Republika Srpska Statehood Day, the Jan. 9, and we will continue to celebrate it," Branislav Borenovic, the head of the opposition Party of Democratic Progress (PDP), said at a news conference held with other five party leaders.

Instead, they said they would ask for the creation of a law on the constitutional court that would establish a mechanism of ethnic voting to prevent judges of any ethnic group from outvoting judges of other ethnic groups.

If such a law has not been passed in the national parliament in the next four months, they will organise a plebiscite on the holiday and may even walk out of state institutions, halting reforms that Bosnia needs to pursue its bid to join the European Union, said Serb Republic President Milorad Dodik.

The condemnation of the court's ruling earlier this week has united otherwise rival ruling and opposition parties in Bosnia's autonomous Serb Republic, threatening to create a new political crisis in the volatile Balkan country.

Bosnia's constitutional court was established by the Dayton peace accords that ended the Balkan country's war and its decisions are binding. Failing to implement a court decision is seen as a violation of the peace accords and the constitution.

The Bosnian Serbs celebrate their Statehood Day on Jan. 9, the day when their own statelet was declared 23 years ago when Bosnia was still part of the former Yugoslavia. What followed was a bloody 1992-95 war in which over 100,000 people died.

The court said the holiday violated the constitutional rights of Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats living in the region as it has been simultaneously celebrated as an Orthodox holiday. It ordered the region to find another date to mark its Statehood Day.

The Serbs said the ruling, based on an appeal by Bosniak presidency member Bakir Izetbegovic three years ago, was made possible because international and Bosniak judges outvoted their Serb and Croat colleagues.

They said that a future law should provide that international judges, who were included in the court after the war as balance to domestic judges elected according to their ethnicity, are absent from the court.

"This is confirmation that the constitutional court has got out of its jurisdiction and turned into a political body which politically intervenes in the constitution," said Petar Djokic, head of the RS Socialist Party. (Writing by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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