If reason does not prevail and the political crisis in Bosnia continues to escalate, the international community must be prepared for a 'Plan B' - "an urgent military intervention in BiH and the occupation of all strategic points that will prevent anyone from possibly trying to force anti-constitutional activities in BiH," constitutional law expert, Nedim Ademovic, told N1 on Wednesday.
Ademovic spoke about what many call the biggest political crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina since the war.
At the centre of the crisis is the initiative by BiH tripartite Presidency member, Milorad Dodik, to roll back numerous post-war reforms which led to the establishment of a number of state institutions – including the army, tax authority and judicial institutions.
Dodik wants Bosnia’s semi-autonomous Republika Srpska (RS) entity to withdraw from those institutions and form its own separate ones.
The move came after the former High Representative tasked with overseeing the civilian implementation of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement in Bosnia, Valentin Inzko, used his special powers to impose a ban on war crimes denial and glorification of convicted war criminals in the country.
RS political leadership strongly opposed Inzko’s move and the RS National Assembly adopted a decision that it will not be applied in the territory of the entity.
Authorities in the entity also never accepted the authority of his successor, Christian Schmidt, who took over the Office of the High Representative in August.
On December 10, the RS National Assembly decided to support Dodik’s initiative.
Bosnia’s Prosecutor’s Office formed a case regarding this session and is investigating it as a possible “attack on BiH’s constitutional order.”
There has been mention of sanctions being introduced against Dodik in the international community, but this step has not been taken so far. Germany called on the EU to introduce sanctions but Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, made it clear that his country would veto such a move.
Ademovic partly blamed the international community for the situation in Bosnia, saying it “played a shameful role in the last 15 years.”
“They constantly avoided BiH institutions, which is really unacceptable. It is a long-standing problem of the international community. This is something for which the international community must be condemned, it means that we are not important to them and we are not partners. They are really not interested in the democratisation of BiH,” he said.
He argued that a final decision or legal act declaring RS independence from Bosnia and Herzegovina has not yet been made but that a lot of steps in that direction have been taken, particularly the adoption of the decision rejecting Inzko’s genocide denial ban, the decision to establish a separate Medicines Agency in the RS and the preparations for the entity taking over state competencies.
“This is the so-called legal secession because with its legal acts the RS is prohibiting the state of BiH from exercising its monopoly on the territory of RS, taking over its competencies and announcing that it will take over other competencies that according to the Constitution belong exclusively to BiH. This is a clear, systematic, intentional attack on the state of BiH, and the fact that we do not see the army or military checkpoints does not mean that the state has not been attacked,” Ademovic said.
He said that it is well-known that Dodik’s Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) has been announcing for a long time that it will deny the authority of BiH institutions.
“This is a process that takes years. I think that, from the sphere of political rhetoric, we have now entered the sphere of criminal responsibility because concrete actions have been taken to undermine the constitutional order of BiH. The moment you deny the possibility of the state enforcing its laws, you deny the state,” he said.
Dodik also said he would call on judicial officials from the RS entity to leave state institutions, but according to Ademovic, it is unlikely they will do so.
“I don’t think anybody is prepared to sacrifice themselves,” he said, noting that he spoke to many colleagues about the issue. “They will not listen to Dodik, that is too much of a personal risk for them.”
Ademovic also noted that BiH has “plunged into organised crime and corruption” and that the state Prosecutor's Office faces a difficult task.
“This will be a difficult test for the Prosecution and will have to address and answer subtle legal issues, starting with the issue of immunity, how the crime was committed and who was involved,” he said.
He argued, however, that there is the danger that the international community will most likely press for “political agreements that will grant amnesty for criminal responsibility” in the matter.
While Ademovic said the SNSD most likely prepared such a plan in advance, he stressed that there were likely also “external factors” at play.
“We cannot ignore the global politics where certain countries and regimes are called out for working with RS and Serbia on an Islamophobic policy, on the policy against migration. I guess at the global and European level, there are certainly forces that have given support to such a project,” he said.
“Let's not forget Russia, which in its goal of defending its global interests is trying to deepen the crisis in the Western Balkans in order to use it in negotiations with the United States over the agreement on Ukraine and other goals,” he said.
Ademovic said that “there are many factors which indicate that a conflict will not take place” and that “reason will prevail,” arguing that there are not many people in the country who want a war, that many have left the country and that Bosnia does not have a lot of possibilities to procure what is necessary to wage a war.
However, he warned that “we can not be completely sure about it.”
Dodik announced that the RS will ban BiH law enforcement from acting on its territory, and Ademovic said that in case this happens, the international community must be prepared for a ‘plan B’ in the country – which would be “an urgent military intervention in BiH and the occupation of all strategic points that will prevent anyone from possibly trying to force anti-constitutional activities in BiH.”
“BiH, the State Investigation and Prosection Agency, the Intelligence – Security Agency (OSA), the Prosecutor's Office and political parties participating in the BiH Parliamentary Assembly all have to ask themselves what will happen if ‘plan A fails’ and someone sets up military checkpoints or resists the legitimate actions of institutions,” he said.
“In 1992, we were all convinced that there would be no war, that we would sleep peacefully and that the army would guard us and we know what happened then. We have no such guarantees today. The international community is speaking openly today about the potential conflict,” he warned.