International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Bosnia reports 1,307 new coronavirus cases and 15 deaths

January 15, 2022
Bosnia and Herzegovina has logged 1,307 new coronavirus cases and another 15 fatalities, the healthcare authorities confirmed on Sunday.
The new results came from 3,477 lab tests performed on those who reported the infection symptoms.
The Federation entity confirmed 949 positive outcomes of 2,507 lab tests performed over the past 24 hours. The region's coronavirus total is now at 205,218. With three more coronavirus-related deaths reported over the past 24 hours and one more reported retroactively, the region's death toll stands at 7,669.
Republika Srpska entity confirmed 257 new Covid-19 cases out of 661 lab tests performed, bringing the coronavirus total in this part of the country to 99,479. The region's death toll stands at 5,633, with eight new deaths reported over the past 24 hours.
Brcko District reported 101 new cases out of 251 tests performed and three fatalities.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/bosnia-reports-1307-new-coronavirus-cases-and-15-deaths/

Coronavirus UPDATE: 26 deaths, 11,248 new cases in Serbia

January 15, 2022
The Serbian Health Ministry said in its daily 3:00 pm bulletin on Sunday that 26 people died of coronavirus-related ailments over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 13,071.
It said that 25,323 people had been tested over the previous 24 hours, including 11,248 who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
The total number of people tested to date stands at 7,634,520 with 1,436,395 confirmed cases.
The bulletin said that there are 2,436 hospitalized cases, including 99 patients on ventilators.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-update-26-deaths-11248-new-cases-in-serbia/

Human Rights Watch: Little progress on human rights in Bosnia during 2021

January 15, 2022
A little visible progress on human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina was made during 2021, according to the latest Human Rights Wach report, which further warns that public officials failed to tackle discrimination, they put pressure on journalists, while war crimes prosecution in the country has slowed down.
The multi-chapter report mentioned in its ‘Discrimination and intolerance’ chapter the Mostar election which took place in December 2020 after a 12-year deadlock, which finally enabled the citizens to elect their local authorities. Also, it stressed that 11 years later the political leaders still have not implemented the European Court of Human Rights ruling to remove the discrimination against the Jews, Roma and others in electoral rules.
The same chapter among other issues also emphasised the Constitutional Court's ruling from July last year which found the ‘two schools under one roof’ practice in some of the educational institutions discriminatory against children as if physically segregates pupils based on ethnicity.
It also recalled of 98 hate crimes recorded by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe between January and August, based mainly on ethnicity and religion.
As for the war crimes processing, the report said in its ‘Accountability for War Crimes’ chapter that the OSCE documented a decline in the number of prosecuted cases generally despite the Revised National War Crimes Processing Strategy which was adopted in 2020 and called for the most serious war crimes to be processed by the end of 2023
It also said that the Bosnian authorities failed again to financially compensate a woman raped in the war as recommended by the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) in 2019.
The report mentioned in this chapter that the appeals panel of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals upheld the 2017 genocide conviction and life sentence of Bosnian Serb wartime military commander Ratko Mladic in June last year.
The same month, in a press release by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN special adviser on prevention of genocide, the special adviser warned against increasing glorification of convicted war criminals in Bosnia, the report stressed.
As for the migration issues, the report carried official statistic dana on asylum seekers and migrants registered in Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to the Service for Foreigner’s Affairs, 10,075 irregular arrivals with 9,057 persons expressing an intention to apply for asylum were registered between January and August, which is a slight decrease compared to the same period in 2020.
It also mentioned the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)'s data, according to which in the first half of 2021, 67 persons submitted asylum applications and 31 were issued decisions, with 1 granted refugee status, and 4 subsidiary protection.
Five state-operated reception centers are mostly overcrowded and around 1,500 migrants had to be accommodated elsewhere. Routine violent pushbacks into Bosnia by Croatian police exacerbate the poor situation for migrants, who often depend on civil society for medical care and basic needs, the report said.
The ‘Domestic and Other Gender-Based Violence’ chapter noted that Bosnia's Federation entity adopted draft law on protection from domestic violence, after delays and criticism by the EU Delegation in BiH.
The European Parliament in September urged the Bosnian authorities to harmonize and implement legislation in line with the Istanbul Conventionm while the body responsible for monitoring compliance with the Istanbul Convention visited BiH in October to evaluate its implementation.
A chapter concerning the freedoms of the LGBTI people mentioned a research from June 2021, which found that this population face discrimination in education, employment, and housing.
It, however, emphasised that the third Sarajevo Pride march went without incident despite an anti-LGBT protest on the same day. In 2021, local cantonal government provided over US$15,000 for security during the event, a cost march organizers previously had to cover, the report added.
As for the media freedom, the report said there were 42 threats against journalists between January and July 2021, of which one was a physical attack.
A September survey carried out by the ‘BH Novinari’ association involving 440 media professionals showed that in the last three years, over 40 percent of respondents indicated they had been subject to threats and intimidation, in most cases by politicians and public officials, the report said.
It also mentioned smears against journalist Tanja Topic by the Chairman of the BiH Presidency Milorad Dodik in May 2021, which led foreign diplomats in Bosnia to call on public officials to refrain from threats and misogynistic comments against media professionals.
The ‘BH Novinari’ association registered increased gender-based violence against women in the media, with 70 incidents over five years, including death threats, verbal and physical threats, and discrimination at work, added the report.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/human-rights-watch-little-progress-on-human-rights-in-bosnia-during-2021/

YouTube blocks Alternativna TV account following US sanctions

January 15, 2022
Google-owned video sharing platform YouTube has blocked the account of Alternativna TV, Banja Luka-based media outlet Alternativna TV, days after the US administration imposed sanctions on this business entity over the ties with Milorad Dodik, Bosnian Serb leader who has been on the US sanctions list since 2017. The sanctions on Dodik have been expanded this year.
The information has been confirmed by the staff of this media outlet, who have noticed the changes on their YouTube channel couple of days ago.
Namely, any attempt to open Alternativna TV content would result in a message saying that the account has been suspended due to the violation of YouTube guidelines.
Milijana Kos, the reporter and editor, earlier assessed the sanctions as “pressure on media” and demanded an explanation for the measures that the US has impsoed on the media outlet.
“They have no evidence. In my opinion, this is a typical pressure on media and an attempt of censorship. I don't know where they found the grounds for their allegations. When it comes to Mr. Dodik, we are blamed for something that he did,” said Kos.
She also said that Alternativna TV was equally reporting on Dodik, the Serb member of Bosnia's tripartite Presidency, as on other two Presidency members.
Head of Banja Luka Association of Journalists Sinisa Vukelic also said commenting on the sanctions that they were not clearly explained and that no siffucient evidence has been provided for the measures.
“If any media outlet is breaching laws, there are ways to sanction them within the system,” he said.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/youtube-blocks-alternativna-tv-account-following-us-sanctions/

Lawyers: Amendments make political influence easier

January 15, 2022
The Serbian electorate turned out on Sunday for a referendum on amendments to the constitution which the ruling coalition claims will bring more independence to the judiciary while lawyers warned that it will make it easier to exert political influence on judges and prosecutors.
If the amendments are adopted the two top bodies in the country’s judiciary will include members appointed by parliament. Those two bodies – the High Judiciary Council and State Prosecutors’ Council – appoint judges and prosecutors.
Belgrade lawyer Milan Kostic told N1 that the proposed changes to the constitution would make judges and prosecutors more independent but warned that political influence can still be exerted because parliament would elect members of the two top judiciary bodies. Specifically, the High Judiciary Council will have 11 members six of who are selected by judges, another four “prominent lawyers” elected by parliament and a Council president. The State Prosecutors’ Council will also have 11 members five of who are public prosecutors, four “prominent lawyers” elected by parliament, a Supreme Public Prosecutor and the Justice Minister.
One of the problems mentioned by critics of the amendments is the introduction of so-called prominent lawyers. They are defined as lawyers with more than 10 years experience who are appointed by parliament but there is no mention of their possible political affiliations.
The amendments include name changes for prosecutors and deputy prosecutors who would carry the title of Chief Public Prosecutor and Public Prosecutor as well as far-reaching changes such as the fact that judges would no longer be elected for an initial three year term before getting a job for life but would have life-long posts immediately and the fact that the Supreme Court of Cassation would become the Supreme Court.
Another Belgrade lawyer familiar with Serbia’s European integration process said that the proposed amendments only partly meet the recommendations of the Venice Commission which would prefer to see more profound and far-reaching changes. The lawyer, who insisted on anonymity said that failure to adopt the amendments would not slow down the European integration process adding that there are a lot of other things that are obstructing the process.
The lawyer agreed that the amendments would make it easier for the ruling coalition to appoint its judges and prosecutors. He said that judges seem to be more of a problem for the ruling coalition because many of them are “just doing their job” in line with the law.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/lawyers-amendments-make-political-influence-easier/

Gatherings in Mitrovica, Belgrade on anniversary of Ivanovic murder

January 15, 2022
The anniversary of the assassination of Kosovo Serb opposition leader Oliver Ivanovic was marked with marches in his native Mitrovica North and Belgrade on Sunday.
Family, friends and members of Ivanovic’s SDP Civic Initiative marched to spot in front of that party’s offices where Ivanovic was gunned down on January 16, 2018. In Belgrade, a number of political parties staged a protest in front of the Serbian Presidency building with some 200 people then marching to the state TV (RTS) building and nearby St Marks church.
In Kosovska Mitrovica family, friends, admirers and political parties organized two separate gatherings, laying wreaths and lighting candles in front of the SDP offices and calling the authorities to finally solve the murder and bring those responsible to justice.
Ivanovic’s son Janko told the first gathering that the show of support means a lot to the family while local residents recalled that the authorities in both Belgrade and Pristina had not solved the murder even though some names of possible accomplices were released.
The second gathering, organized by Ivanovic’s fellow party members, heard SDP official Ksenija Bozovic say that they were not backing down on their demand to discover his killers. She called Belgrade, Pristina and the international community to solve the political murder.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/gatherings-in-mitrovica-belgrade-on-anniversary-of-ivanovic-murder/

Milorad Dodik's son announces lawsuit against US ambassador in Bosnia

January 15, 2022
Igor Dodik, son of Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, has announced hiring a team of lawyers to launch legal proceedings against US Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Eric Nelson for what he called "false allegations."
Speaking to Nezavisne novine daily, Nelson commented on recently introduced US sanctions on the private TV station Alternativna TV due to close links to Milorad Dodik, who is also a subject of the US sanctions.
He said it was important to note that Alternativna TV was not sanctioned as a media company but as a corrupt business entity controlled by Dodik and his family for corrupt purposes. The ambassador also said that Dodik was arranging public tenders for his children i.e. Alternativna TV, adding that the sanctions were not aimed against reporters but are a condemnation of corrupt business activities.
The Serb leader's son slammed the ambassador, saying that he is doing bad in justifying the moves of the US administration.
“I am going to hire a team of lawyers and find a way to sue him for false allegations, so he will have to provide any kind of evidence about, how he disgracefully claims, directing public money to Dodik's children through ATV,” Igor Dodik wrote on his Twitter.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/milorad-dodiks-son-announces-lawsuit-against-us-ambassador-in-bosnia/

Covic, Plenkovic call for urgent changes to Bosnian election law

January 15, 2022
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic met the leader of the main Croat ethnic party in Bosnia and Herzegovina Dragan Covic on Saturday and they called for urgent changes to Bosnian election law.
Following the meeting, Covic wrote on his Twitter that he and the Croatian PM discussed bilateral relations and progress of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Also, they underlined the importance of the electoral reform.
“This incredibly important process must finally restore alienated rights of Croats and eliminate discrimination,” said the HDZ BiH leader, who is currently the speaker of Bosnia's House of Poeples, the parliament's upper chamber.
Covic reiterated his earlier stance that the election law changes must ensure legitimate representation of constituent peoples in both the House of Peoples and in the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Covic's HDZ BiH is the sister party to Plenkovic’s Croatian HDZ.
Plenkovic also briefly commented on the meeting, expressing support to the political talks on electoral reform in BiH and emphasising the need to achieve the equality of Bosnia's three constituent peoples.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/covic-plenkovic-call-for-urgent-changes-to-bosnian-election-law/

Social democrats ask FM to demand reports on Bosnian ambassadors’ activities

January 15, 2022
Bosnia and Herzegovina's Social Democratic Party called on foreign minister Bisera Turkovic to ask from the diplomatic-consular offices abroad to immediately deliver reports on their activities that promote the interests of BiH and are aimed at gaining international support for the protection of the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“We ask minister Turkovic, in accordance with her competencies, to call to account the Bosnian consuls and ambassadors who are exceptionally well paid for the work of international affirmation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the strategic interests of our country,” the SDP said.
The party said this call comes after learning from its partners and friends, primarily from the Party of European Socialists, about low or non-existent engagement of the state diplomatic network “at a moment when gaining international support is crucial for the survival and stability of our country.”
“Therefore, we expect minister Turković to promptly request detailed reports from the heads of the diplomatic-consular offices, especially those in Europe and the United States, on the meetings held with representatives of the countries in which they operate, as well as other activities taken to contribute to a more intensive cooperation with these countries, with an aim of sanctioning and stopping separatist and other activities to promote the division and segregation of Bosnian society, which lead to the destabilisation of our country and the regiona,” the SDP said.
The party also called on the Chairman of Bosnia's tripartite Presidency Zeljko Komsic to initiate procedures of dismissing the “inert and inactive ambassadors and consuls” and appointing those who would it as a serious duty.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/social-democrats-ask-fm-to-demand-reports-on-bosnian-ambassadors-activities/

Serbians vote on amendments to the constitution

January 15, 2022
Serbians are going to the polls on Sunday to decide on amendments to part of the Constitution which governs the judiciary.
Voting at the referendum is not being organized in Kosovo because the parliament in Pristina adopted a resolution banning the vote. The question on the ballots is: Are you in favor of the act to confirm the changes to the Constitution of Serbia.
Serbian nationals resident in Kosovo have been given the opportunity to vote at polling stations in border towns. The Kosovo authorities arrested an official of the Serbian Republic Election Commission (RIK) bringing ballots for the Kosovo Serbs.
Voters are being asked to approve the amendments to the constitution which the authorities say would make the judiciary more independent while the opposition and civil society organizations say it would leave room for political interference. The amendments change the way judges and prosecutors are elected which means that if the amendments are passed, the High Judiciary Council and High Council of Prosecutors would make the appointments instead of parliament as is the case now. Opponents of the amendments are saying that this would leave room for political influence because of the way the members of those two bodies are appointed.
The opposition has called the electorate to vote no, instead of boycotting the ballot. Some European Union embassies have lent their support to the referendum. The authorities have also warned that failure to adopt the amendments would effectively halt Serbia’s European integration process.
The polls opened at 7.00 am on Sunday and will close at 8.00 pm. The RIK will hold five news conferences during the day to report on voter turnout. The poll will also be monitored by independent organizations.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbians-vote-on-amendments-to-the-constitution/

Dacic not optimistic that Sunday referendum will be held in Kosovo too

January 15, 2022
Serbian Assembly Speaker Ivica Dacic said that there are difficulties in organising the referendum on changing the justice-related part of the Constitution, which is scheduled for Sunday, January 16, because the composition of polling boards is constantly changing due to the coronavirus spread.
Dacic told Prva TV is is also an issue how to enable voting for those who are positive for the coronavirus.
“The coronavirus is so unpredictable, the composition of the polling board is constantly changing, someone is getting sick. There is a possibility of voting outside the polling station. The health of those who will go to collect those votes must be taken into account,” said Dacic.
He also noted that this is “the first referendum organized according to the new rules,” and that it was a binding and “necessary step towards European integration.”
Dacic said he was “not too optimistic” about the referendum taking place on the territory of Kosovo, but that it was “another indicator of how much Pristina is in the role of obstructing any dialogue.”
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/dacic-not-optimistic-that-sunday-referendum-will-be-held-in-kosovo-too/

Roadblocks against Rio Tinto in Serbia end, new next weekend; Support from BiH

January 15, 2022
As the environmentalist organisations announced, the roadblocks across Serbia started at 1 pm on Saturday, ending after an hour or hour and a half without the uniformed police presence and with a few verbal incidents with nervous drivers.
The people blocked traffic at several locations, including the border crossing with Bosnia and Herzegovina in the west.
There were fewer demonstrators than during the largest Saturday’s protest in December, after which the authorities met demands to annul one law and amend the other. But more gathered than during the last protest. The activists say it is essential that the demonstrations do not fade out and announce a big rally in Belgrade next weekend, adding they will call for an hour of a warning general strike.
One of the leaders of the ‘Environmental Uprising,’ Aleksandar Jovanovic told N1 during the Belgrade protest the protests in Serbia would not stop until the Government decree on the Spatial Plan for the Rio Tinto’s Jadar Project’ was annulled.
He added that the request was an "acute matter" and pointed out that there would be no retreat until it was "resolved".
"(Serbia's President) Aleksandar Vucic knows what to do. We will soon bear him out," Jovanovic said.
Zlatko Kokanovic from the 'Ne Damp Jadar' (We Don't Gove Jadar) organisation said that "people came from (the northern city of) Novi Sad, Sabac, people from (the northern town of) Temerin called to support us. Also, we are backed by 15 NGOs from BiH fighting there for clean air and the healthy Drina River. This story went beyond Serbia's borders."
A few verbal incidents occurred between nervous drivers and demonstrators who only let ambulances, people with children in cars, and those who said were heading to funerals. Some drivers said they were not informed about the protest.
A more serious incident happened at the roadblock in the western town of Sabac, when a driver knocked a man down trying to get through the crowd.
The ambulance arrived quickly and treated the man who said he had pain in his legs and was shocked.
Sabac was the site of a much bigger incident during the protest in December with a man trying to drive an excavator through the crowd. A protester climbed on the machine and punched the driver to make him stop.
The activists blocked the border crossing on Saturday in an attempt to radicalise protests in spite of Prime Minister Ana Brnabic's warning the state would react in such a case.
Despite some authorities' concessions, the activists said they would not give up protests until the Government published all documents related to Rio Tinto's plan to mine lithium in western Serbia and annul them.
As was the case during previous protests in December and earlier in January, the uniformed police were not present. Reporters say plainclothes police officers have been noticed.
In the meantime, an unrelated rally was held in Belgrade when the residents of the part of the city gathered to say no to constructing a business and residential object of 47,000 square meters.
Belgrade Deputy Mayor Goran Vesic promised the New Belgrade residents that nothing would be built between the buildings in that part of the city.
However, the residents said unless they got something in writing, they "don't believe (Deputy Mayor) him when he says his name is Goran Vesic."
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/roadblocks-against-rio-tinto-set-up-in-serbia-end-new-next-weekend-support-from-bih/

PM Brnabic: Serbia’s electric power system is stable

January 15, 2022
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said that the name of new chief of the state power company 'Elektroprivreda Srbije' will be known soon and the public will be informed about it.
Speaking in Obrenovac on Saturday, Brnabic praised this Belgrade municipality for everything it has done and she thanked former acting general manager of the power company Milorad Grcic for everything that ‘Elektroprivreda Srbija’ did to expand the heat network system.
Brnabic emphasised that the electricity system of Serbia is stabilised and that the need for electricity import is decreasing.
“I hope that it will get only more and more stable and I am happy that the citizens encountered no problems, while those with gas and electricity prices are unprecedented on the world and European markets,” she said.
She also said that Serbia did not increase the prices of gas and electricity.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/pm-brnabic-serbias-electric-power-system-is-stable/

BiH Prosecution won't investigate five individuals accused of Tuzla war crimes

January 14, 2022
The Truth, Justice, Reconciliation Foundation in Tuzla said it will appeal the decision of the BiH Prosecutor's Office to not to conduct an investigation against five people for the wartime shelling of the Bosnian city.
It was also announced that there would be no investigation into the May 25, 1995 massacre at Kapija, which left survivors and parents of the victims disappointed with the justice system in the country.
The Truth, Justice, Reconciliation Foundation filed a criminal complaint against Mile Dubajic, Momir Zec, Veljko Brajic, Milan Nedeljkovic and Dobrasin Prascevic 15 years ago, accusing them of the wartime artillery operations in Tuzla. The State Prosecutor's Office has now said there will be no investigations based on the complaint.
The Prosecutor's Office states that the collected evidence confirms that Tuzla was shelled in the period 1992-1995, that civilians were killed and wounded and that cultural and religious buildings were destroyed, but that shelling could not be brought into connection with the reported persons.
The shelling of Kapija in Tuzla is known as one of the worst war crimes committed in the country in the past war. A shell was fired at the neighbourhood, killing 71 and wounding 150 people. The victims were overwhelmingly young people.
“They say they did not have enough evidence. But we as parents, working in the commission, we passed so much evidence to them, that it is really a shame,” said Zineta Hidanovic, the mother of one of the victims, Alem.
“Novak Djukic himself could not do what he did without his assistants,” she said, referring to the Bosnian Serb commander who was sentenced for the massacre.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/bih-prosecution-wont-investigate-five-individuals-accused-of-tuzla-war-crimes/

High Rep urges RS entity leadership to end blockade of BiH's state institutions

January 14, 2022
The international official overseeing the civilian implementation of Bosnia’s 1995 Peace Agreement called on the political leadership in BiH’s Republika Srpska (RS) entity to stop actions aimed at destabilizing the state and end the blockade of BiH institutions.
“Bosnia and Herzegovina is facing a serious crisis. Political stakeholders in the country, in particular the RS leadership, have the responsibility to de-escalate the current political tensions, particularly by desisting from attempted rollbacks and other actions aimed at undermining and destabilizing the State, ending the blockade of State-level and FBiH institutions, adopting zero tolerance for divisive and hateful rhetoric, and resuming the work necessary to advance much needed reforms, all of which are necessary if BiH is to move down the EU path,” High Representative Christian Schmidt said during his meeting with BiH Foreign Affairs Minister Bisera Turkovic on Friday.
The statement comes in light of the biggest political crisis in the country since the war over an initiative by RS leadership to withdraw from numerous state institutions and form its own, separate ones.
Schmidt emphasized the “firm commitment of the international community to BiH’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and path to becoming a vibrant, democratic and prosperous country,” an Office of the High Representative (OHR) statement said.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/high-rep-urges-rs-entity-leadership-to-end-blockade-of-bihs-state-institutions/

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