According to current legislation of Bosnia’s Republika Srpska (RS), it is entirely legal to mark RS Day on January 9, Bosnia’s Justice Minister Josip Grubesa said commenting on the controversial marking of the holiday that the State Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional.
“It’s my duty to inform the public that the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina did not decide that January 9 is unconstitutional as such but that some provisions of the Law on Holidays of RS are opposite to the Constitution, and specifically this refers to the part regarding the Patron Saint Day and religious marking of the Republika Srpska Day,” said Grubesa.
Bosnia's Constitutional Court banned in 2015 the celebration of the Day of Republika Srpska, Bosnia's Serb-dominated entity, on January 9, as this date falls on an Orthodox religious feast and, the court decided, it is discriminatory against the non-Serbs, mostly the Muslim Bosniaks and the mostly Catholic Croats.
RS authorities never approved the decision and continued observing the date, despite the court order to find a new date for the RS Day celebration in six months.
Minister Grubesa attended the ceremony organised by the RS authorities in the north-western city of Banja Luka on January 9 as part of the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ BiH) delegation led by HDZ leader Dragan Covic, political ally of Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik who became the Serb member of Bosnia's tripartite Presidency in October and has for years advocated secession of the RS from the country.
Apart from Covic, the ambassador of neighbouring Croatia also attended the ceremony, which triggered strong reactions mainly among Bosniak politicians. Bosnia's Council of Ministers Chairman called it a “diplomatic scandal and a hostile act” and two days later the Government of Croatia announced it would dismiss its ambassador in Bosnia over the attendance of the celebration.
The Justice Minister interprets the whole situation in a different way, claiming that one needs to respect the others and their holidays “if we want to move forward.”
“That’s the only way for us to ask that ‘those’ respect our own holidays and don’t dispute our right to celebrations. This is often ignored and that was the case this time again,” said the minister adding that the RS entity is a part of Bosnia and Herzegovina and that this is the fact that has to be acknowledged.
In his interpretation of the Constitutional Court’s decision, Grubesa said the RS authorities immediately implemented the court’s decision and adopted a law without disputable provisions.
“The same date, January 9, was determined as the RS Day. Some media outlets are using the confusion they deliberately created in public to self-initiatively declare this date as ‘unconstitutional,’ let alone how they ignore the new law which solved this issue. So, according to the current RS legislation, the day of that entity is completely legally marked on January 9,” said HDZ BiH’s minister.