International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Bosnian Serb leader defiant over Constitutional Court ruling on land bill

February 11, 2020

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik criticized on Tuesday the country’s Constitutional Court again for ruling that a land bill passed by the Bosnian Serb-majority region is violating the country’s Constitution, saying that the judiciary is trying to "impose illegal solutions."

“This is our red line for the judiciary in Bosnia and Herzegovina which, it seems, is doing nothing other than trying to impose illegal solutions and hand down rulings against Republika Srpska,” said Dodik.  

Bosnian Serb political leaders have for years been obstructing efforts for a law to be passed on the state level that would define all land formerly owned by Yugoslavia to be declared Bosnian state ownership.  

Meanwhile, the semi-autonomous entity of Republika Srpska (RS) passed a law declaring such land the property of the entity.  

The state Constitutional Court ruled at its last session that this law is unconstitutional and that the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina should be the owner of such land.  

Dodik called the ruling unacceptable and announced that Republika Srpska will react to it.

The RS has frequently rejected rulings by state courts and its leadership has been advocating for the judiciary to be under the competencies of the two Bosnian entities.  

Edin Ramic, an RS lawmaker, said the problem could be easily solved with a state law that would transfer the ownership of such land to the state but that it would be at disposal to local authorities.  

However, Bosnian Serb politicians “do not want such a law to be passed as they want to continue developing their theory of the constitutionality of entities and not peoples,” Ramic said.  

"They are trying to argue that the entities are states which have their property, their army, everything they need, and that those entities then somehow came together and decided to unite into the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina, implying that at some point they can decide to break away,” Ramic said.  

Bosnia’s top international official imposed in 2005 a rule that prevents authorities from using land that belonged to Yugoslavia until a state-level law is passed.  

This decision is still in effect but, nevertheless, the RS parliament passed its own law in 2010, declaring all such land located on RS territory the property of the entity.

The international official in Bosnia prevented that law from being implemented until the Constitutional Court decides whether it is legal.

The Court ruled in 2012 that such land has to be declared state property but Republika Srpska then passed a whole set of laws violating that decision.  

Neither of Bosnia's two entities are respecting the decision by the international administrator.

"What good does it do if someone is protecting property that is meanwhile decaying?” Ramic asked.  

If the state law cannot be passed because of obstructions, then the Office of the High Representative (OHR), the top international official, should pass it on the state level and allow entities to use it while it is the property of the state, he suggested.  

The distribution of state property is one of the conditions for the OHR to close down.  


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