By Drazen Remikovic and Ivana Jovanovic
Serbia’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader Cedomir Jovanovic called Republika Srpska (RS) a “genocidal creation” in a speech to party members, prompting a public outcry and a debate on the nature of the BiH entity.
“RS was founded on genocide, the Srebrenica genocide. The ethnic cleansing is unprecedented in Europe since the Second World War,” Jovanovic told the LDP steering committee on January 29th.
Amid the outcry in Serbia as well as RS, the Tanjug news agency organised a debate between Jovanovic and RS President Milorad Dodik.
In the two-hour-long TV duel, Jovanovic said his critics took his statement out of context but, he added, the comment is accurate. “All those who built Republika Srpska in 1992 did so upon the destruction of Sarajevo and Srebrenica,” Jovanovic said.
Dodik called Jovanovic’s claim a lie. “Republika Srpska was formed in May 1992 and Srebrenica massacre happened in July 1995,” he said.
Dodik’s cabinet additionally issued a statement saying Jovanovic’s comment was unnecessary and tendentious, and was likely aimed at the upcoming elections in Serbia in May. In BiH, opinions are split, but the Serbian parties there supported Dodik’s opinion.
“Even Mr. Jovanovic knows what he said is not true and he said that sort of thing only to gather more votes in the upcoming elections,” Party of Democratic Progress President Mladen Ivanjic told SETimes.
Meanwhile the RS Organisation of Families of Captured, Killed Soldiers and Missing Civilians filed a lawsuit against Jovanovic in a Belgrade court.
“We invite Serbia’s parliament to publicly distance itself from such statements,” the organisation’s president, Nedeljko Mitrovic, told SETimes.
Kasim Trnka, a Zenica law professor and former constitutional court judge, said Serbia defended RS many times and in that way amnestied all crimes that have occurred in its territory.
“The relationship of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina can only be changed if the true democratic forces come to lead the Serbian government. They are ready to build future relations with Bosnia on the basis of the truth. And the truth is that genocide occurred on this entity’s territory,” Trnka told SETimes.
FBiH’s largest political party, the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), similarly accused the Serbian leadership of participating in RS’s 20th anniversary.
“Those who celebrate the RS and January 9th as its birthday are joining in the glorification of the biggest war crime in Europe since the Second World War, proving that they were involved in this project,” SDA said in a statement.
Serbia’s President Boris Tadic, Patriarch Irinej, Interior Minister Ivica Dacic and other high-level officials attended the anniversary.
Dacic — the Socialist Party of Serbia’s president and Jovanovic’s most serious political opponent in the upcoming May elections — characterised Jovanovic’s statement as harmful to RS’s existence.
“Serbia is a guarantor of the Dayton Agreement and they should not make such statements, and especially because their [then] Prime Minister and leader Zoran Djindjic never put down Republika Srpska,” Dacic said.