International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Coronavirus UPDATE: 3 deaths, 290 new cases

July 27, 2021

The Serbian Health Ministry said in its daily 3:00 pm bulletin on Tuesday that 3 people died of coronavirus-related ailments over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 7,108.

It said that 10,446 people had been tested over the previous 24 hours, including 290 who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

The total number of people tested to date stands at 4,634,126 with 720,643 confirmed cases.

The bulletin said that there are 341 hospitalised patients, including 11 patients on ventilators.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-update-3-deaths-290-new-cases/

High Rep's imposed law in BiH refers to all war crimes, not only genocide

July 27, 2021

While the media primarily focused on the latest decision of Bosnia's international administrator in terms of banning the denial of the 1995 Srebrenica Genocide, it is important to note that the new law also makes glorification of any war crimes that were determined in court illegal in the country, including those committed by Bosnian Croat and Bosniak forces.

The outgoing High Representative in BiH, tasked with overseeing the civilian implementation of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, Valentin Inzko, used his special powers on Friday to impose amendments to the BiH’s Criminal Code which sanction the glorification of war criminals convicted by final and binding judgments, as well as the denial of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The law will come into force on Wednesday, a day after it was published in the official gazette.

While welcomed by Bosniak top officials in the country, Inzko’s move prompted officials from Bosnia’s Serb-majority Republika Srpska (RS) entity, who have been denying that a genocide took place in the eastern town of Srebrenica for years, to discuss a “joint response.”

Political leaders in the RS, including those from the opposition, decided on Monday that members of their parties will not participate in the work of BiH institutions “until the issue is resolved.”

According to the Serb member of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency and the leader of the ruling party in the RS, Milorad Dodik, Inzko’s decision is political and targets Bosnian Serbs specifically.

However, the law says that “whoever publicly condones, denies, grossly trivializes or tries to justify a crime of genocide, crimes against humanity or a war crime” established by final judgments of international courts or the court of BiH, or “whoever gives a recognition, award, memorial, any kind of memento, or any privilege or similar to a person sentenced by a final judgement for genocide, crimes against humanity or a war crime,” will face prison time.

This means that the law refers to the many other war crimes committed in Bosnia, including those committed by the Bosnian Croat Croatian Defence Council (HVO) or the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) handed down prison sentences against top wartime leaders of the self-declared wartime Bosnian Croat political structure, Herzeg-Bosnia, for their involvement in a “joint criminal enterprise” that involved ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

The Croat National Assembly of BiH (HNS), an organisation made up of Bosnian Croat parties, two years ago said that it rejects the ruling and argued that the war Bosnian Croat forces fought in the 1990s was “just and legitimate” and not a joint criminal enterprise.

Top Bosnian Croat political leaders have been celebrating the project of Herzeg-Bosnia, as well as decorating and praising convicted Bosnian Croat war criminals, such as Dario Kordic, throughout the years. After Kordic, whom the ICTY convicted for the 1993 Ahmici massacre in central Bosnia, left prison, he was ceremonially welcomed by top officials of Bosnia’s Croat Democratic Union (HDZ BiH), including party leader, Dragan Covic.

Inzko’s new law makes such activities illegal as well.

It would also encompass any attempts to glorify or trivialise the crimes committed by convicted Bosniak war criminals – such as the six members of the Army of the Republic of BiH, including former commander Nezir Kazic, who were sentenced for war crimes committed in the municipality of Hadzici.

Inzko himself clarified that his interventions in Bosnia’s criminal legislation target a specific ethnic group in BiH but instead deal with individual responsibility, and he rejected “any potential manipulations which might claim that these legislative amendments are directed against one of the three peoples.”

According to the statement by the Office of the High Representative, the amendments aim to address the inadequacy of the currently applicable legal framework of BiH which “does not offer an adequate response to the issue of hate speech manifested through the denial of the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, even when those crimes have already been adjudicated with final and binding judgments reached by a number of domestic and international courts.”

One of the arguments against initiatives to ban genocide denial is that such a move violates freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.

“Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers,” Article 10 of the Convention says.

However, it also says that the exercise of these freedoms “may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.”

Professor at the faculty of Criminal Justice, Criminology, and Security Studies at the University of Sarajevo, Edina Becirevic, clarified in a 2019 publication of the ZDF-Forum entitled “Calling War Atrocities by their right name” that “absolute freedom of speech does not exist in the positive law of BiH or in any progressive-liberal state, because absolute freedom of speech could threaten others.”

The publication also mentions a European Court of Human Rights ruling from June 24, 2003, against Holocaust denier Roger Garaud from France.

The court “gave an authoritative response on restricting freedom of speech by prohibiting genocide denial noting that the justification of a pro-Nazi policy could not be allowed to enjoy the protection afforded under Article 10 of the ECHR,” the publication said.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/high-reps-imposed-law-in-bih-refers-to-all-war-crimes-not-only-genocide/

Bosnian ban on genocide denial comes into force

July 27, 2021

Provisions of the BiH Criminal Code banning the denial of genocide and glorifying war criminals, imposed by the outgoing High Representative to BiH, Valentin Inzko last week were published in the Official Gatezze Thursday and have come into force Wednesday, July 28.

The law changes that the High Representative imposed among other things stipulate the prison sentence from six months to five years for the one who “publicly condones, denies, grossly trivializes or tries to justify a crime of genocide, crimes against humanity or a war crime.”

Inzko introduced his decision recalling the special powers vested in the High Representative by Article 10 of the Dayton Peace Agreement and expressing a deep concern “that prominent individuals and public authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina continue to deny that acts of genocide crimes against humanity and war crimes were committed during the armed conflict, that individuals and public authorities publicly question the legitimacy of judgements issued by the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia and the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina and that individuals and public authorities honour or praise convicted war criminal.”

He also recalled that the UN Security Council repeatedly affirmed that the role of the international envoy in BiH, as a final authority in the implementation of the peace deal, includes the “authority to make binding decisions as he judges necessary on issues as elaborated by the Peace Implementation Council in Bonn on 9 and 10 December 1997.”

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/bosnian-ban-on-genocide-denial-comes-into-force/

BSN: New weapons strengthen Serbia’s Air Force

July 28, 2021

In the past five years, Serbia has strengthened its air force, special units and artillery, the Balkan Security Network (BSN) website reported on Wednesday.

It said the Air Force had been enforced with 14 new helicopters and ten MiG-29 fighters.

The school aviation has improved, while the reconnaissance from the air has been restored with drones.

The process of serious procurement started at the end of 2016, and after that, five new Russian Mi-17 V5 transport helicopters, four Mi-35M combat helicopters and five Airbus X-145Ms were purchased.

All helicopters were also armoured, making them resistant to fire from light infantry weapons from the ground.

The fighter aircraft were donated by Russia and Belarus, with ten MiG-29, whose overhaul was paid for.

Along with four fighters of the same type that the Air Force already had, the total number increased to 14, equivalent to a squadron rank unit.

Drones and combat aircraft CH-92A were purchased from China.

After years of development, a small unmanned homemade aircraft Vrabac (Sparrow) was introduced into the Air Force contingent.

From 2019 to 2021, Russia donated the VS 30 BRDM-2MS armoured reconnaissance vehicles and 30 T-72 B1MS tanks.
Twelve homemade armoured combat vehicles Lazar 3 were introduced, and the delivery of six was announced.

Forty Hamvias were also procured, and the zero series of armoured command reconnaissance vehicles BOV KIV with observation stations with thermal cameras were presented.

The artillery units received a battery of self-propelled cannon howitzers Nora B-52 and digitised self-propelled rocket launchers Oganj.

„The lowest percentage of new or improved combat equipment is in artillery and anti-aircraft missile units,“ BSN said.

Besides the digitalisation of several KUB missile systems, the Air Force defence was strengthened by the Pancir S1 artillery-missile system, purchased from Russia.

The Air Force has also been testing the modernised PASARS artillery system.

The purchase of the Chinese air defence system FK-3 and anti-aircraft missiles Mistral from France has yet to be realised.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/bsn-new-weapons-strengthen-serbias-air-force/

Right wing activists try to prevent Serbian opposition gathering

July 27, 2021

Members of an ultra-right organization tried to prevent an opposition gathering in the city of Kragujevac on Tuesday but were moved away by the police.

The Party of Freedom and Justice (SSP) organized the gathering of some 300 people in Kragujevac, headed by party deputy leader Marinika Tepic who spoke to reporters just before four cars drove up, blocked the street honking their car horns and displaying four large Serbian flags.

SSP official Obrad Turkovic told N1 that two plain clothes female police officers walked up showed their badges while six other police officers pulled the Levijatan organization activists from their cars and walked them down the road about 100 meters. He said that the young men in black shirts managed to block the street for less than 10 seconds before the police reacted and searched the vehicles. Levijatan is a right-wing nationalist organization which supports the policies of the Serbian authorities.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/right-wing-activists-try-to-prevent-serbian-opposition-gathering/

Tabloid editor releases conversation between lawyer and crime bosses

July 27, 2021

Serbian lawyers told N1 on Tuesday that the editor of a pro-regime tabloid may have jeopardized legal proceedings against the bosses of an organized crime group by publishing an alleged transcript of a conversation with their defense lawyers.

Informer tabloid editor in chief Dragan J. Vucicevic appeared on the pro-regime TV Pink to disclose what he claims is the transcript of a conversation between Veljko Belivuk and Marko Miljkovic with their lawyer. Belivuk and Miljkovic have been charged with drug trafficking and murder. Earlier, Belivuk told prosecutors that he met with President Aleksandar Vucic and was instructed by him and other state officials to take control of Partizan FC supporters to stop them chanting offensive slogans against Vucic and stop several protests. A transcript of Belivuk’s interrogation was published by the KRIK investigative portal while NewsMax Adria published part of Miljkovic’s testimony.

Vucicevic read out the alleged transcript which showed that Belivuk, Miljkovic and their lawyer were discussing how they would lie about meeting Vucic. Vucicevic said that he got the transcript from sources which he did not name.

The Serbian Bar Association called for an investigation into how the recording was made and whether the rooms where lawyers met their clients were bugged. Bar Association Board Secretary Aleksandar Cvejic told N1 that the recording could jeopardize the proceedings.

Dragan Boljevic of the Serbian Judges’ Association warned that this could be used to claim that the defendants did not get a fair trial if their right to talk to lawyers in private has been compromised.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/tabloid-editor-releases-conversation-between-lawyer-and-crime-bosses/

Another crime clan member claims close ties to Serbian state officials

July 27, 2021

Another member of a recently arrested organized crime group claimed close ties to Serbian state officials and involvement in an attempt to show that the president’s life was in danger, NewsMax Adria reported on Tuesday.

The daily evening news show published part of a statement by the Belivuk crime clan’s Marko Miljkovic who said that three clan members were ordered by Minister Aleksandar Vulin to leave a carload of firearms on the approach road to the Vucic family home just outside Belgrade. “They wanted to show the media that (Serbian President Aleksandar) Vucic was being targeted. No one has answered for the carload of weapons,” Miljkovic is quoted as saying in the transcript of his testimony.

Miljkovic was a close associated of crime clan boss Veljko Belivuk, aka Velja Nevolja, who told prosecutors earlier that he had meetings with Vucic and other high-ranking officials who ordered him to end some protests, take control of the Partizan FC supporters who had been shouting offensive slogans against Vucic and other things. The Belivuk group were arrested and charged with murder and drug trafficking among other things.

Miljkovic’s testimony was about an incident on October 29, 2016 when the police found a car filled with firearms near the Vucic family home in the Jajinci suburb. State officials and pro-regime media immediately claimed that someone was planning to kill the president. Prosecutors decided in August 2017 that there were no grounds for criminal charges.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/another-crime-clan-member-claims-close-ties-to-serbian-state-officials/

PM tells outgoing IMF resident Serbia will continue structural reforms

July 28, 2021

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic told outgoing IMF Resident Representative Sebastian Sosa that official Belgrade will continue structural reforms as its priority through the reform of public companies.

She added that the focus will be on the green agenda and maintaining macroeconomic and financial stability, a press release said. Brnabic said that she expects cooperation with the IMF to continue as successfully as it has been to date, adding that IMF support is highly important to Serbia.

The press release quoted Sosa as saying that he is satisfied with Serbia’s progress on economic reforms over the past few years. He said that this is reflected in the fact that the new arrangement with the IMF is advisory.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/pm-tells-outgoing-imf-resident-serbia-will-continue-structural-reforms/

OSCE says Kosovo authorities need to focus on minority rights

July 27, 2021

The OSCE said on Tuesday that Kosovo institutions need to ensure continued progress and increase their focus on advancing the rights of minority communities.

The report by the OSCE mission in Kosovo said that the rights of non-majority communities need to be advanced as a cornerstone in building a truly inclusive, peaceful and stable society, concludes an OSCE Mission in Kosovo report presented today.

“The fifth edition of the Community Rights Assessment Report assesses the progress made by Kosovo institutions in respect to the Council of Europe’s (CoE) Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM), in the areas of inter-community dialogue, security and justice, language, education, returns, socio-economic rights, culture and media,” a press release said.

The report said that Kosovo institutions have achieved progress in promoting and protecting the rights of minority communities in line with FCNM obligations. It noted positive developments during the four assessed years, including the integration of the judiciary, the adoption of a legally binding Regulation on the Return of Displaced Persons, and the adoption of several key policy documents in the area of cultural heritage as well as in the effectiveness of Ombudsperson and the government’s efforts to create a comprehensive institutional framework to ease the inclusion of the Roma and Ashkali communities.

“The OSCE Mission in Kosovo has been directly involved in supporting the institutions that have achieved these concrete results. We will continue to partner with relevant institutions in following up on the recommendations outlined in this report to address the issues identified,” the press release quoted OSCE Mission in Kosovo chief Ambassador Michael Davenport as saying.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/osce-says-kosovo-authorities-need-to-focus-on-minority-rights/

RS entity reps won't participate in BiH institutions due to genocide denial ban

July 26, 2021

As of Tuesday, officials from Bosnia’s Serb-majority Republika Srpska (RS) entity will not participate in the work of BiH’s institutions, leaders of political parties in the entity agreed on Monday after the international administrator in the country imposed a law banning genocide denial last week.

“As of tomorrow, Serb representatives will not participate in the work (of institutions) and will not make decisions. I believe that there will be sufficient political maturity to try to resolve such a sensitive issue in the coming period,” said the leader of the RS opposition Party for Democratic Progress (PDP), Branislav Borenovic, following the meeting in the RS National Assembly.

The outgoing High Representative tasked with overseeing the civilian implementation of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement in Bosnia, Valentin Inzko, used his special powers on Friday to introduce amendments to the BiH’s Criminal Code which sanction the glorification of war criminals convicted by final and binding judgments, as well as the denial of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

According to RS National Assembly Speaker, Nedeljko Cubrilovic, the meeting is a consequence of the “very complicated situation following Inzko’s decision.”

He then listed the conclusions from the meeting.

  • We, representatives from the RS, reject the imposed decisions of the High Representative and consider them unacceptable
  • There are no conditions for work in joint institutions, the Presidency and the Council of Ministers
  • We reject any attempts of imposition on the level of the BiH Government and reject any cooperation with the High Representative

Other conclusions said that additional steps to respond to the situation were also discussed and that the party leaders agreed to submit two laws related to these efforts in the coming period.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/rs-entity-reps-wont-participate-in-bih-institutions-due-to-genocide-denial-ban/

Meeting of party leaders in BiH's RS entity regarding genocide denial ban starts

July 26, 2021

The meeting between the leaders of political parties in Bosnia's Republika Srpska (RS) entity in an effort to agree on a joint position regarding the latest decision of BiH’s international administrator who imposed a ban of genocide denial in the country has started on Monday.

The outgoing High Representative tasked with overseeing the civilian implementation of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement in Bosnia, Valentin Inzko, used his special powers on Friday to introduce amendments to the BiH’s Criminal Code which sanction the glorification of war criminals convicted by final and binding judgments, as well as the denial of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The new law prompted harsh reactions among both the ruling Bosnian Serb officials as well as the opposition.

The Serb member of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency, Milorad Dodik, who is also the leader of the ruling party in Bosnia’s Serb-majority Republika Srpska (RS) entity, announced that the RS will start the process of dissolution of the country, repeating his intention to take the RS toward independence. He said that the decision represents the ‘last nail in the coffin’ of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Opposition parties dismissed this idea as hazardous but in general agreed that imposing laws like this is counterproductive.

Branislav Borenovic, a fierce critic of Dodik and the leader of the opposition Party of Democratic Progress (PDP), said that the move by Inzko was “unacceptable” and called for “unity” ahead of the meeting.

He argued that RS officials should not participate in the work of BiH institutions until the issue is resolved.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/meeting-of-party-leaders-in-bihs-rs-entity-regarding-genocide-denial-ban-starts/

First-instance disciplinary commission decides to dismiss BiH's Chief Prosecutor

July 26, 2021

The first-instance disciplinary commission of Bosnia’s top judicial institution dismissed the country’s Chief Prosecutor, Gordana Tadic, and downgraded her to the position of a state prosecutor due to offences related to the automatic assignment of criminal cases and security checks.

Tadic failed to introduce the system that automatically distributes cases to prosecutors, the commission determined.

She can appeal the commission’s ruling within eight days.

During that period she will continue to perform the duties of the chief prosecutor.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/first-instance-disciplinary-commission-decides-to-dismiss-bihs-chief-prosecutor/

Serbia’s Vucic: Preserving peace in BiH, working on economy

July 26, 2021

Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia's President, said on Tuesday he carefully watched the events in Sarajevo and Banja Luka and that it should preserve peace and work on the economy.

Referring to the outgoing High Representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) Valentin Incko ban on denying genocide and glorifying war criminals, Vucic said: „It goes without saying that imposing and declaring decisions from the outside could never bring good results.“

He added he would meet the Republika Srpska (RS), the Serb-dominated entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina, leadership during the commemoration of the Croatian Army and police „Storm“ operation from 1995.

„We are informed, and we follow everything, and, certainly, we cannot leave RS in any economical or any other problem,“ Vucic said.

He said he was right in fearing that the atmosphere in BiH was „the hottest since the Dayton Agreement,“ but that he hoped that everyone knew how important to preserve peace.

„We must try to establish brotherly relations with Bosniaks,“ Vucic added.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbias-vucic-preserving-peace-in-bih-working-on-economy/

Opposition leader: Serbia’s regime brought crime, corruption to absurd level

July 26, 2021

Vuk Jeremic, the leader of Serbia's opposition People's Party, said on Tuesday that the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) brought crime and corruption to an absurd level during nine years in power.

In an interview with the independent Danas daily, Jeremic said, „despite all the problems, Serbia (until 2012 when SNS came to power) was on its European path, only to become „a kleptocratic dictatorship in which all values have been severely devalued.“

He added that at the start of the 10th year of the SNS’ rule, „former and active mobsters came to the centre of social life as the most influential and richest people in Serbia.“

„The authorities whose mandate started with promises to fight corruption and organised crime in the country, in nine years brought the crime and corruption to absurd proportions, not heard of anywhere in Europe,“ Jeremic said.

He added the main infrastructure projects were realised without public calls, the state companies were destroyed, the agricultural land was sold to foreigners and local tycoons for peanuts, drugs were produced on plants near the capital under the direct protection of people from state security services…

Jeremic said that „all of that is financed by dizzying external borrowing. The state debt doubled in the meantime, reaching an astronomic sum of 30 billion euros,“ he added.

Jeremic said, „the democracy and human rights dramatically regressed in Serbia, what has been noticed in all international reports. Except the head of state, all institutions become meaningless, and almost all important media are under the regime’s control.“

„Political opponents are declared the enemies of the people and the state and are exposed to unscrupulous demonisation, which directly imperils their and their families safety,“ Jeremic said.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/opposition-leader-serbias-regime-brought-crime-corruption-to-absurd-level/

Lawyer: Serious threats to journalists in Serbia, impunity prevents progress

July 26, 2021

The threats to journalists in Serbia, particularly on social networks, are extremely serious and won’t stop as long as there is still impunity and the state institutions don’t do their job, a lawyer and investigator with the Independent Association of Serbia’s Journalists (NUNS) said on Tuesday.

Marija Babic added the official answer to reports of intimidation is “there are threats, but they remain threats.”

But she recalled the threats to Milan Jovanovic, who reported on local corruption, led to the burning of his house while he and his wife were inside it. He had received the threats before the arson, but they were not processed.

“We have to be aware that sometimes it goes beyond the threats,” Babic warned.

She said what was needed were the implementation of laws, the efficient work of the institutions, higher level of the police and prosecutors understanding of the journalism, and to what extent those threats influence the journalist and their work and media freedom and freedom of people generally.

“The institutions must start doing their job, primarily the police and prosecutors, and react timely in processing such cases. We have some mechanisms for that, but it is not enough,” Babic said.

The International Press Institute, IPI, reported in April that “in the first few months of 2021 alone, NUNS documented 21 different attacks against journalists. Death threats are common and online harassment of journalists has become increasingly normalised, with journalists investigating or reporting on crime and corruption facing particular dangers.”

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/lawyer-serious-threats-to-journalists-in-serbia-impunity-prevents-progress/

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