Republika Srpska was born out of the Bosnian Serb wish to have their own state and their freedom, the Serb member of the tripartite President, Milorad Dodik, said on Thursday, adding that Serbs will celebrate January 9 regardless of what Bosnia’s Constitutional Court says.
“We have managed to create Republika Srpska as an expression of the wish of the Serb people to have their own state. It was created in peace, defended in war and persisted in this time. The RS is today the pride of all of us – stable, peaceful and committed to progress and freedom,” Dodik said, repeatedly referring to the semi-autonomous entity as a state.
“We, Serbs living here in the RS and those who remain outside of the RS and Serbia, know that there is no freedom for the Serb people if they do not have their own state. That is why they have two states today: the RS and Serbia. We live in the RS as a synonym for our freedom,” he said.
Dodik added that “Serbs never fought only for their own freedom.”
“Today the RS is free for members of other nations as well, Bosniaks and Croats freely observe their identity. They participate, they are part of our institutions, but they dispute January 9. We should not bear a grudge but celebrate it. This is our day, our celebration, our RS and we want to build freedom and a life here,” Dodik said.
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. His appeal, which was granted, 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 Holidays in the RS.
In March 2019, the Constitutional Court declared that law unconstitutional as well.
Dodik has been complaining about the Constitutional Court for years because of the way it is set up – it is composed of nine judges, two Bosniaks, two Serbs, two Croats and three foreigners.
He criticised the Constitutional Court on Thursday again, calling it an “inquisition court.”
He said he will not respect decisions made by “three foreigners and two Bosniaks.”