Bosnia's international administrator "humiliated" the Serb people and exceeded his powers when he sent a letter asking the parliament of the Republika Srpska (RS) entity to annul honours it awarded to convicted war criminals, BiH’s former top judicial official, Milan Tegeltija, told N1.
Tegeltija resigned from his post as head of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJCP) in early December 2020 due to pressure from the international community, including the High Representative in Bosnia, over media allegations that he was involved in influence peddling, which he denies.
High Representative Valentin Inzko, who is tasked with overseeing the civilian implementation of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement in Bosnia, sent the letter with the request to the National Assembly of the Serb-majority RS entity on Wednesday.
It said that in 2016, the organizing committee which was established to mark the 25th anniversary of the existence and work of the RS National Assembly awarded “special charters and recognitions to numerous institutions, organizations and individuals.”
“Among those who received them were all former speakers of the National Assembly and members of the First Presidency of the RS, including Radovan Karadzic, Momcilo Krajisnik and Biljana Plavsic, whose actions shocked the world during the armed conflict [in Bosnia] and caused unimaginable human suffering. As you know, Karadzic, Krajisnik and Plavsic were convicted of war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia,” his letter said.
The Austrian diplomat stressed that “the glorification of war criminals, including glorification in the form in which we witnessed on October 24, 2016, directly hurts and provokes those who suffered the consequences of the war and damages the memory of the victims” and that it “destabilizes the region and threatens the prospects for reconciliation in BiH.”
The Austrian diplomat urged the RS Assembly to “show political maturity, moral responsibility and moderation towards the future, by revoking the charters with decorations awarded to convicted war criminals Karadzic, Krajisnik and Plavsic.”
“I am giving you and the RS National Assembly a period of three months, until the end of April 2021 [to do so],” he wrote.
According to Tegeltija, Inzko abused the issue of glorification of war criminals in order to exceed his powers in matters he has no competencies over.
“Inzko used that letter to characterize the war in BiH, the Serb people, he showed that he is a localized politician, he lost the authority of an impartial international body,” he said.
“The qualifications he wrote represent the humiliation of an entire people, which he, as a representative of the international community, should not have allowed himself to do because it exceeds the framework of the Dayton Agreement,” he added.
The RS National Assembly is the only institution that has the power to decide on any honours it awards, Tegeltija stressed, adding that Inzko’s request will not be supported by the international community or the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) – the body composed of foreign ambassadors overseeing Bosnia’s peace process.
Tegeltija argued that the RS National Assembly awarded the recipients not because of the war crimes they committed, but because of their contribution to the creation of Republika Srpska which is in no way connected to the crimes they were sentenced for by the international war crimes court in The Hague, Netherlands.
“Everyone in BiH respects the verdicts of the court in The Hague when it comes to their formal character, but you have the right to agree with them or not. The legal fact is that they exist,” he said.