The President of the parliament of Bosnia’s Serb-majority part accused on Monday Bosniak lawmakers of blocking efforts to abolish the death penalty - a claim the Bosniaks described as hypocritical and shameful as the death penalty abolishment was part of a package that was unacceptable to them because of other changes it contained.
The issue was brought into focus after the European Commission mentioned that the inclusion of the death sentence in the Constitution of the semi-autonomous entity of Republika Srpska (RS) breaches European standards.
“The Parliament and the RS are not to blame for the provision on the death sentence still being in the Constitution,” said Nedeljko Cubrilovic, the President or the RS National Assembly (parliament), putting the blame on the Bosniak club in the Council of Peoples and the Office of the High Representative which created that council in the first place.
The High Representative (OHR) is the foreign diplomat the international community has tasked with overseeing the implementation of the treaty which ended the Bosnian war and contains the Constitution.
The High Representative had established the RS Council of Peoples in 2002 and given it competencies that are too wide, he said.
“The concept of vital national interest, because of which the Council of Peoples was formed, has such a wide definition that it frequently leads to abuse and that mechanism is often being used for all kinds of things with one basic goal – to produce political damage to Republika Srpska,” he said.
The discussion on the death sentence is exactly such a case, he argued.
The Bosniak club in the RS Council has used the vital national interest to block 29 amendments, including the abolishment of the death sentence, which were proposed for the RS Constitution in 2012, he said.
“That is why I think that statements about the responsibility of Srpska for the non-implementation of the proposal to abolish the death sentence are not true,” Cubrilovic told ‘Nezavisne novine’.
The Bosniak Vice-President of the RS, Ramiz Salkic, said Cubrilovic’s accusations from earlier that day were “shameful, hypocritical and abominable.”
When the Republika Srpska Constitution was created, “Bosniaks in this entity were being persecuted, killed, taken to prison camps, exiled and thrown into mass graves without due process, only because they were Bosniaks,” Salkic said, referring to the 1992-1995 war when the RS was formed.
“Mr Cubrilovic knows that Bosniaks were in favour of changing this shameful and uncivilised provision in the entity Constitution, but that provision was not abolished because of the wishes of the Serb people,” he argued.
“Bosniaks are today still prepared to vote for the abolishment of this provision, but they are not prepared to accept other changes of the Constitution under the cloak of abolishing the death penalty,” he said, arguing that those other changes would further discriminate against Bosniaks in this part of the country.
“We call upon Cubrilovic, as well as others, to propose changes to the RS Constitution and the abolishment of the death penalty and we will support it,” he said.