Bosnian Serbs gathered on September 1 at the inter-entity border to protest against the indictment of Republika Srpska’s President Milorad Dodik and the acting head of the entity’s State Gazette.
In August, the state-level prosecutor’s office accused Dodik and Milos Lukic, acting director of Republika Srpska's Official Gazette, of putting in force legislation changes not to respect the acts of the international community’s high representative Christian Schmidt.
Bosnia comprises two autonomous entities – the Muslim-Croat Federation and Republika Srpska. Each of them has its own institutions and there are also state-level bodies.
The protest gathered between several hundred and more than 12,000 Serbs, according to different media reports.
According to independent news outlet N1, hundreds of Bosnian Serbs gathered along the inter-entity boundary line, an administrative line separating Serb-dominated Republika Srpska and the Federation, to show support for Dodik.
Pro-Dodik news outlet Nezavisne Novine quoted him as saying that more than 12,000 people attended the protest.
Meanwhile, Zeljka Cvijanovic, the Serb member of Bosnia’s state-level tripartite presidency, said this gathering was only a final rehearsal of what could come next.
“This is just a final rehearsal of what could follow if they continue harassing us. And it is a harassment when they do not allow the national assembly of Republika Srpska to do its job, because it is the parliament that adopts the laws; when they do not allow the president to do its job by signing decrees,” Cvijanovic said as quoted by Klix.ba news outlet.
The legislation changes, adopted by Republika Srpska’s parliament, were initiated by Dodik whose SNSD party rules the entity. They were put in force despite a ban imposed by Schmidt who had used his Bonn powers to prevent the adoption of legislation changes that violate the Dayton peace agreement that has ended the 1992-1995 Bosnian war.
N1 reported that many of people were carrying banners reading “The border does exist”.
Republika Srpska’s Prime Minister Radovan Viskovic said that Schmidt was appointed illegally. Republika Srpska’s political leaders claim that the UN did not follow the procedure for appointing the high representative. Only Russia supports this position.
“We know the best how we need to live here and I think that 30 years after the unhappy war that happened here legally elected officials of this country should take care of it. We need to thank to the foreigners, let them go to their homes, let them arrange what they have in their own countries,” Viskovic said as quoted by N1.
Meanwhile, Schmidt said the rally was a “cheap manipulation of citizens”.
“High Representative Christian Schmidt reminds that it is irresponsible to stage divisive political events at the Inter-Entity Boundary Line. The Inter-Entity Boundary Line is not a border between the RS and the FBiH, but purely administrative line,” the Office of the High Representative said in a statement.
It added that the freedom of movement between the two entities must be ensured at all times.
The rally announcement sparked tensions between the interior ministers of the two entities. Ramo Isak, interior minister of the Federation, said he would not allow the gathering on the entity line, which a sparked reaction from Security Minister Nenad Nesic, a Bosnian Serb, who said that Isak should be careful about his words and align his statements with his competencies.
Despite fears of possible escalations, the rally went peacefully.