September 28, 2012 – Washington, D.C. – The Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina (ACBH) strongly condemns the recent actions by the Republika Srpska (RS) police and government officials in the unlawful harassment of voters in Srebrenica.
On July 11, 1995, the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, a United Nations declared safe haven fell to the Serb paramilitary forces led by General Ratko Mladic, an indicted war criminal whose trial for genocide and other crimes against humanity began in May of 2012 at The Hague. The fall of Srebrenica, where over 8,000 men and boys were slaughtered within a five day period, marks the final act of brutal ethnic cleansing and genocide in BiH.
In 2008, Srebrenica was granted exceptional electoral status to allow Bosniaks expelled from Srebrenica and living elsewhere to vote in the local elections. The city – 80% Bosniak before the war is now predominantly Serb. The previous exception that upheld voting rights for former residents has not been extended to upcoming municipal elections on October 7 – opening the door to “genocide by ballot” – and leaving Srebrenica to be run by the present Serb majority that continues to deny the wartime genocide and ethnic cleansing. Such an outcome would only add to the culture of exclusion that has developed in Republika Srpska (RS) since the Dayton Peace Accords. Last week, the President of the RS, Milorad Dodik visited Srebrenica and once again proclaimed that genocide did not occur there.
ACBH has long advocated for the election laws in BiH to be changed and for Srebrenica to continue to be granted “special status.” More recently, the international community has held Bosnian politicians responsible for what happens in Srebrenica. Instead of leaving it up to the politicians and the very complex and inefficient political structure, the citizens of BiH rallied together and started an “I Will Vote for Srebrenica” campaign in order to encourage and register BiH citizens to vote in the upcoming municipal elections in Srebrenica. BiH citizens by law are allowed to change their residency status and vote in whatever entity they choose; however, the RS authorities have been unlawfully intimidating individuals who have come to register to vote in Srebrenica and have illegally removed over 200 names from the voter’s list.
By doing so, Milorad Dodik and the authorities of Republika Srpska are systematically violating Annex 7 of the Dayton Peace Accords. Furthermore, local organizers have reported that the RS police have intensified harassment of pro-BiH activists in eastern BiH more so in the last few months than in the past ten years.
ACBH urges the RS authorities to immediately stop violating international law and allow the citizens of BiH to vote in the Srebrenica elections in a fair, orderly and democratic manner without using fear, force or discrimination tactics. Further, ACBH calls on the Office of the High Representative (OHR) and the Organization for Security & Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to fulfill their oversight responsibilities and halt the intimidation and harassment of voters in Srebrenica.