The celebration of the Day of Republika Srpska was not declared unconstitutional but only part of a law on the holiday was, the Russian Embassy in Bosnia said on Friday after the EU, the US Embassy and local politicians argued that the event was organised contrary to Constitutional Court decisions.
“We do not share the assessments expressed in a series of comments on the so-called ‘unconstitutionality’ of the Day of Republika Srpska,” the Russian Embassy said, adding that “problems should not be created where they don’t exist.”
Towns across Bosnia’s Serb-majority semi-autonomous entity have on Thursday celebrated the Day of Republika Srpska despite rulings by Bosnia’s Constitutional Court which said that celebrating the date on January 9 is not in line with the Constitution.
On January 9, 1992, the assembly of Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina adopted the Declaration on the Proclamation of the Republic of the Serb People - today Republika Srpska - as a federal unit within the Republic of Yugoslavia.
But non-Serbs, most of all Bosniaks, perceive the holiday as a celebration of a policy that led to genocide. They argue the 1992 decision served as the basis for Bosnian Serb forces to expel, kill and put non-Serbs into concentration camps in order to create an ethnically pure Serb republic.
The Constitutional Court ruled that the RS Day celebration on January 9 was unconstitutional in 2015, based on an appeal submitted by the former Bosniak member of the tripartite Presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic. The appeal said that “each determination of holidays of an entity which symbolises only one or only two of the three constituent peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina represents a measure which leads to division, exclusion, limitation or favouritism based on national or ethnic heritage.”
RS authorities rejected the ruling and organised a referendum on the issue the next year where the vast majority in the mostly Serb-populated entity voted for January 9 to remain the date for the holiday.
The Constitutional Court abolished the results of that referendum, but RS authorities ignored that ruling too and adopted a law on the holiday.
In March 2019, the Constitutional Court declared that law unconstitutional as well.
The Office of the EU Special Representative in the country, the US Embassy and numerous local politicians, mostly Bosniaks, criticised the Thursday celebration.
But according to Russia’s Embassy, the Constitutional Court decision which everybody is now mentioning “does not refer to the Day of Republika Srpska but to one article in the Law on the Day of Republika Srpska."
The Thursday celebration was organised in accordance with a decision by the Government of Republika Srpska and was adopted in accordance with its competencies, the Embassy said.
“The constitutionality of this decision is not disputed. In accordance with that, we call upon all sides, including the international community, to refrain from the negative and divisive rhetoric, trust the law, take into account the legal interests of both sides and to be committed to peaceful cooperation in the new year of 2020,” it said.