The Bosnian Serb Ministry of Interior has called for citizens to attend the upcoming celebration of the Day of Republika Srpska (RS), a holiday which marks the establishment of the Serb-dominated semi-autonomous entity and which has been declared unconstitutional because it falls on a Serb Orthodox religious holiday.
“We call for all citizens of Republika Srpska to come to Banja Luka, to celebrate the Day of the RS in a peaceful and honourable manner,” the Interior Ministry of Bosnia’s Serb-majority half, Republika Srpska, said in a press release on Friday.
The Constitutional Court banned the celebration of the Day of the RS in 2015, granting an appeal by Bakir Izetbegovic, who was at that time the Bosniak member of the country’s tripartite Presidency.
The reason stated was that the celebration falls on the same date as an Orthodox religious holiday, and celebrating it is therefore discriminating against the mostly Muslim Bosniaks and the mostly Catholic Croats.
The Court gave the RS Government six months to find a new date for the celebration but the request has so far been ignored.
RS authorities, most notably those from the ruling party of then-RS President Milorad Dodik, the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), but also from Bosnian Serb opposition parties, contested the decision and called for the adoption of constitutional amendments that would remove foreign judges from the Constitutional Court, whom they blame of siding with Bosniaks.
The RS Government also organised a referendum within Republika Srpska asking citizens whether January 9 should be celebrated anyway and citizens voted in favour.
Valentin Inzko, the High Representative who was appointed by the international community to oversee the civilian implementation of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement which ended the Bosnian war, said at the time that RS authorities had breached the Constitution with the referendum.
In 2016, the RS Day celebration took place and was visited by, among others, the then-Prime Minister of neighbouring Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic.
By the end of the year, the RS National Assembly adopted a Law on the Day of RS, in which it officially declared January 9 as the Day of the RS, as a secular holiday.