Serb politicians in Bosnia deny the Srebrenica genocide, which was carried out by ethno-nationalist Serb militias. Instead, they have repeatedly played down the sufferings of Bosnians during the war.

Representatives of the Serb entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina announced a boycott on Monday of all major institutions in the divided country, following the decision by the UN representative to ban genocide denial in the country. 

The boycott of the Bosnian joint presidency, the parliament and the government will mean blocking all the central institutions in the country that rely on the approval of representatives of three ethnicities, Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats. 

Branislav Borenovic, one of the opposition leaders in Republika Srpska, the Bosnian Serb entity, announced the boycott at a press conference.

"As of tomorrow, Serb political representatives will no longer participate in the work of the common institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina and will not make any decisions until this issue is resolved," he told journalists. 

The decree by the UN High Representative Valentin Inzko sets jail terms of up to five years for anyone who "publicly condones, denies, grossly trivialises or tries to justify" the genocide or war crimes committed during Bosnia's 1992-95 conflict.

In July 1995, nationalist Serb militias seized Srebrenica which was supposed to be protected by the UN forces and murdered over 8,000 Muslim men and boys. The incident took place while Bosnians were killed by the ethnic-nationalist Serbs in other parts of the country. 

 It was the worst atrocity in Europe since World War Two and was judged an act of genocide by two international courts. However, despite the huge record of evidence, Serbs still reject that genocide took place and often played down the Srebrenica massacre. 

"Genocide in Srebrenica, war crimes and crimes against humanity...must not be forgotten or denied," he said in the statement.

A boy reacts as mourners prepare for the funeral of newly identified victims at the memorial cemetery in Potocari near Srebrenica, Bosnia, Sunday, July 11, 2021.
A boy reacts as mourners prepare for the funeral of newly identified victims at the memorial cemetery in Potocari near Srebrenica, Bosnia, Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP)

While Austrian diplomat Inzo can impose laws and fire officially under the 1996 Dayton peace treaty, he has rarely used his powers in the past. His 12 years in the office will end and be replaced by Germany’s Christian Schmidt. 

Based in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, the Office of the High Representative was established as part of the Dayton accord that ended a war in which 100,000 people died. The peace deal left Bosnia split between the Bosniak-Croat Federation and the Serb Republic, linked by a relatively weak, tripartite inter-ethnic presidency.

The decision to ban genocide denial outraged Serbs who often ignore the sufferings of Bosnians. 

Milorad Dodik, a Serb member of Bosnia's tripartite presidency,  even threatened the country with the dissolution after denying that genocide had occurred in Srebrenica.

"This is the nail in Bosnia's coffin," he told a news conference. "The Republika Srpska has no other option but to start the...dissolution," he said. 

However, on the other hand, the decision has been hailed by Bosniaks. 

Sefik Dzaferovic, a Bosniak member of Bosnia's presidency, said Inzko had "fulfilled his obligation to the victims, his conscience, but also to the Dayton peace agreement."

The decree also envisages jail terms for the "recognition... (and giving of) mementoes or any privileges" to convicted war criminals.

The secessionist claims by Serbs are often backed by Russia and China. Most recently two Asian power try but failed to get the UN Security Council to strip some powers from an international envoy overseeing the implementation of a 1995 peace accord and shut down the envoy's office in one year.

They were the only council members to vote for the resolution while the remaining 13 council members abstained. Beijing and Moscow also tried to block the appointment of former German government minister Christian Schmidt to become the next UN High Representative in Bosnia. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies