The parliament in Bosnia’s Serb-majority region adopted on Thursday controversial legislative changes which establish an auxiliary police unit there.
The changes passed with 51 votes in favour and two against in the National Assembly of Republika Srpska (RS), one of the two semi-autonomous entities in the country. Nineteen lawmakers abstained.
Politicians in the other Bosnian region, the FBiH, have earlier expressed concern about the introduction of more police in the RS.
Bakir Izetbegovic, the leader of the main Bosniak party in the country, the Party for Democratic Action (SDA), said that Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik and RS authorities are “arming the entity police with military firearms.”
Nihad Colpa, the leader of the left-leaning Civic Alliance (GS), said he believes the additional RS police unit will act as an “RS infantry” and its establishment was “changing the balance in arms distribution in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is a direct breach of Annexe 1 of the Dayton Peace Agreement.”
But according to RS Interior Minister, Dragan Lukac, the new police unit should make up 20 per cent of the RS police force, which amounts to about 1,000 officers. Not all of the new officers will be recruited immediately, only 100 or 200 of them, he said.
The Minister previously said the unit would be composed of young people who would be summoned only when necessary and would have the same competencies as active police officers. The officers would respond to safety challenges such as a migrant crisis, natural disasters or other situations where citizens need help.
But Edin Ramic, the head of ‘Zajedno za BiH’ (Together for Bosnia and Herzegovina), a coalition of mainly Bosniak parties, does not believe him, saying that RS authorities are directing migrants towards Bosnia’s other entity, the Federation (FBiH).
He said the proposed changes breach Bosnia’s Constitution, European Conventions on Human Rights and Bosnian law.
RS Prime Minister Radovan Viskovic said on Monday that the 2020 RS budget should include financing for the new police unit.