The celebration and revival of the wartime self-declared Herzeg-Bosnia (HB) is being used by Bosnian Croat leader Dragan Covic and his party to “mobilise” voters ahead of the election, Sociology Professor Slavo Kukic told N1.
Never has there been more Croatian flags in parts of Bosnia with a Bosnian Croat majority than now, ahead of the October 7 general election, Kukic said.
On Tuesday, who is the Croat member of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency and the leader of the Croat Democratic Union in Bosnia (HDZ), gave a speech at the ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of the establishment of Herzeg-Bosnia, a Croat wartime self-declared para-state.
"The political class, most of all the one personified by Dragan Covic and the HDZ, is with this revitalization and resurrection of Herzeg-Bosnia trying to mobilise the electoral body around it so that they can go a step further after the election," Kukic said.
Herzeg-Bosnia was established by Croat nationalists led by Covic’s party in the south of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1991. Its armed forces, the Croatian Defence Council (HVO), were first allied with Bosniak armed forces. But HVO and Bosnia's Army turned against each other after the parastate declared itself a republic on August 28, 1993, and changed its name into the Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia, with Mostar being its capital.
The parastate had the ambition to become one of three ethnic republics in Bosnia or preferably part of neighboring Croatia. The Croat-Bosniak conflict ended in 1994 with an agreement brokered in Washington D.C. which prescribed the creation of a Bosniak-Croat Federation entity (FBiH) out of territories controlled by Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats. Herzeg-Bosna was abolished two years later.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has, in its rulings against six HVO war criminals, determined that Herzeg-Bosnia was an illegal structure that had the goal of creating a Croatian entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina and uniting it with neighbouring Croatia.
Herzeg-Bosnia is still being celebrated by HDZ politicians, despite the rulings.
"Of course, none of them respects the basic institution that issued the judgement," he said, referring to the ICTY "which has, because of this idea, in one day handed down 111 years of punishment to those who were the personification of this idea in the first half of the 1990’s," Kukic said.
The reincarnation of Herzeg-Bosnia is being used to blackmail Bosnia today, he said.
"A few days ago the Prime Minister of the (Croat majority) West Herzegovina Canton categorically claimed that Croats infused Herzeg-Bosnia into the Federation and that without HB there is no Bosnia and Herzegovina," he said, adding that this is the same as when Milorad Dodik, the President of the other, Serb-dominated semi-autonomous entity in Bosnia, Republika Srpska (RS), says that if there was no RS there would be no Bosnia.
"HB is actually an instrument of creating fear for the citizens in that part of the country and those who do not believe me should ask the citizens that live there, who have experienced the 'benefits' of HB," he said.
But the idea of HB is in reality, according to Kukic, not alive at all. He said it is only being exploited by politicians within the HDZ.
"They just exploit it, I am sure that they don’t have ambitions to rule over the area which the HB covered. Their ambitions are more modest, they want to rule over the area from Stolac to Livno," her assessed.
The ideas of the early 1990’s are welcome in neighbouring Croatia as well after it joined the EU, he said.
"Their appetite for Bosnia and Herzegovina is increasing more and more, and as for Croatia and Serbia, they would have nothing against the redrawing of maps," the professor said.
The Appellate Court of the ICTY had confirmed sentences that were handed down in 2013 against Jadranko Prlic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Milovoje Petkovic, Valentin Coric and Berislav Pusic, who were found guilty of the crimes committed in the area of Herzeg-Bosnia and sentenced to a total of 111 years behind bars.
Prlic, who was the head of the Croat Defence Council and the president of Herzeg-Bosnia, received a 25-year sentence.