International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Bosnia gets another donation of Covid vaccines, Malaysia sending 50,000 doses

March 31, 2021

The Government of Malaysia decided in a session on Wednesday to send the first shipment of 50,000 Covid-19 vaccines to Bosnia and Herzegovina, learns Fena news agency.

Reportedly, the decision came after Bosnia Presidency member Sefik Dzaferovic talked to Prime Minister of Malaysia Muhyiddin Yassin last week, asking him to help Bosnian authorities establish the contacts for the vaccine purchase.

According to the Fena news agency, the doses that Malaysia is sending to Bosnia and Herzegovina are the vaccines made by Chinese producers.

Bosnia has to this date received two shipments of about 50,000 vaccines out of the total of 1.2 million doses it purchased through the COVAX mechanism. Other vaccines that have so far arrived in the country include donations from Serbia and Turkey, while the announced donations from China and Slovenia are still being expected.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/bosnia-gets-another-donation-of-covid-vaccines-malaysia-sending-50000-doses/

Bosnia to expect next COVAX vaccine shipment in second quarter of 2021

March 31, 2021

Bosnia’s Civil Affairs Ministry was informed Tuesday morning that a new vaccine shipment from the COVAX facility consisting of some 100,620 doses of Pfizer / BioNTech vaccines will be delivered in the second quarter of 2021, the Ministry said.

The ministry added that the information came from the GAVI Alliance Secretariat and that Pfizer/BioNTech is only one of the manufacturers whose vaccines are expected soon in BiH through the COVAX mechanism.

Previously, 23,400 doses of Pfizer / BioNTech and 26,400 AstraZeneca vaccines were delivered to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/bosnia-to-expect-next-covax-vaccine-shipment-in-second-quarter-of-2021/

Sarajevo Canton publishes vaccination registration app against Covid-19

March 31, 2021

The citizens of the Sarajevo Canton (KS) have the opportunity to register for vaccination against COVID-19 via the web application which was made public on the evening hours of March 30, 2021.

The KS Government announced that the mass immunization of the citizens of Sarajevo Canton will take place in the Juan Antonio Samaranch – Zetra Olympic Hall.

It is still unknown when the inoculation process would begin in the KS nor other cantons.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/sarajevo-canton-publishes-vacination-registration-app-against-covid-19/

Vucic to CNN: Vaccines not geopolitical but saving lives issue in Serbia

March 31, 2021

Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic told CNN on Wednesday that his country did not take the vaccination as a geopolitical but rather an issue of saving lives.

During CNN’s Fred Pleitgenr report from Belgrade about the „country that offers free vaccine shots to foreigners,“ Vucic said he was happy that Serbia was successful and reiterated it procured vaccine from all over the world.

„You can get the American, European, Russian or Chinese vaccine; it’s up to you to choose,“ he said.

Asked about the immunization of people from the region, Vucic said he was happy if his country could help someone from North Macedonia, Montenegro or Bosnia and Herzegovina.

„It’s our region, we live next to each other, and if we can be helpful to them, great, and if they can help us, we thank them. That shows we are looking into the future without going to the past,“ Vucic added.

He told CNN that Serbia would have enough shots despite vaccinating foreigners and invited Pleitgner to get shot in Belgrade if he hadn’t done it yet.

Before a short interview with Vucic, CNN described Serbia as „a regional vaccination hub, as it has so much vaccine, it’s even offering free shots to foreigners.“

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/vucic-to-cnn-vaccines-not-geopolitical-but-saving-lives-issue-for-serbia/

WHO: Sinofarm, Sinovac vaccines approval expected by early April

March 31, 2021

Alejandro Cravioto, Chair of the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE), said on Wednesday he and his colleagues would wait for the World Health Organization (WHO) approval of Chinese Sinofarm and Sinovac vaccines before publishing their recommendation on their use.

The WHO’s SAGE advisory group, which is in charge of recommending vaccination, said the two Chinese vaccines proved „safe and effective against COVID-19 when a patient has symptoms.“

„However, there are no data about the effects of those vaccines on older people and those with other illnesses,“ SAGE experts said.

They added that „when those data become known, studies about the vaccines’ efficiency and safety for those population segments will be necessary.“

WHO has so far approved Pfizer-BioNtek, AstraZeneca, and Johnson – Johnson vaccines.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/who-sinofarm-sinovac-vaccines-approval-expected-by-early-april/

Serbian COVID hospital chief appeals for mass vaccination

March 31, 2021

The head of the new COVID hospital in Belgrade warned that the medical facility was going through its worst moments and urged the public to get vaccinated.

Batajnica COVID hospital CEO Dr Tatjana Adzic Vukicevic said after a meeting with Health Ministry senior staff that the hospital was full with 915 patients being cared for. “I am in a situation to look for more space, fear every phone call from desperate doctors who are asking me to admit just one more patient,” the doctor said.

She said that this is a crucial moment for the Serbian health care system, adding that unless the public focuses on vaccination “we will literally be no more”. “I am appealing for mass vaccination because only vaccine can save us from this horrible situation,” the doctor said.

She added that there will be no free hospital beds anywhere in Serbia soon. “None of us believed four months ago that this hospital would be filled,” she said. The hospital in the Batajnica suburb was built to care for COVID-19 patients and was completed four months ago.

The doctor said that 12 semi-intensive care and five intensive care wards had been opened in the past three weeks. “We have 109 patients in intensive care, 90 percent of them intubated. The cases are much more drastic now and what is even more worrying is that they are mainly young people. The youngest patient was born in 1989 and we are fighting for her life,” Dr Adzic Vukcicevic said.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbian-covid-hospital-chief-appeals-for-mass-vaccination/

Serbian official says violations of anti-pandemic measures rise


March 31, 2021

A senior Health Ministry official said on Wednesday that the number of violations of the anti-pandemic measures has increased and was higher in March than in the past five months.

Assistant Minister in charge of inspections Goran Stamenkovic said that inspectors issued 1,561 tickets and a total of 48 million Dinars in fines in March alone compared to 175 million over the previous five months. “Catering establishments are where most of the violations were reported. There were deliberate violations, the opening of restaurants, gatherings behind locked doors and we had to go in with the police to find owners and whoever else was there,” Stamenkovic said.

He said the restrictions were being violated mainly by younger people, adding that violations were reported in gyms and open-air markets. “We need the support of the courts and prosecutors. We are seeing private gatherings in establishments which are supposed to be locked up and those deliberate gatherings are a public health hazard,” Stamenkovic said.

He said that more restrictive measures need to be in place to deal with people spreading false news about the vaccination.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbian-official-says-violations-of-anti-pandemic-measures-rise/


Microbiologist says reopening cafes and restaurants makes no sense

March 31, 2021

Microbiologist Milanko Sekler said on Wednesday that opening restaurants and cafes makes no sense because the epidemiological situation in Serbia is bad.

“I’m not sure that the opening of restaurants and cafes makes sense. If the measures are eased we are endangering the vaccination effort,” the Kraljevo Veterinary Institute expert said adding that an economic slump is a normal thing in a pandemic because lives can’t be sacrificed.

Sekler said that vaccination is the only way out of the pandemic which, according to him, means the public should be educated about the importance of inoculation. “They have to be told that things will not get better in the country without vaccination,” he said.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/microbiologist-says-reopening-cafes-and-restaurants-makes-no-sense/

BH Journalists Association condemns arrest of journalist on duty in Brod

March 31, 2021

The Steering Committee of the BH Journalists Association and the Free Media Help Line (FMHL) condemned the Wednesday arrest of journalist Vahidin Mujagic in the northern town of Brod, who was detained for recording the Brod Oil Refinery, calling it a “gross attack on media freedoms and journalistic rights.”

“While filming the Brod Oil Refinery, police officers approached journalist Mujagic and, explaining that it was not allowed to film the Refinery, demanded that the footage be confiscated, then took the journalist to the police station and issued him a misdemeanour warrant for unauthorized filming,” the association said.

According to the statement, Mujagic told the Free Media Help Line that there was no sign anywhere in the area saying that it is prohibited to record the refinery, explaining that he did not enter the facility and that his goal was to record the gas pipelines that were installed by the Republic of Croatia a few days ago on the territory of BiH.

“With respect to all legal procedures and rules that apply when it comes to filming / photographing certain protected objects, the Steering Committee of BH Journalists considers that taking journalist of O Channel to the police station in Brod was unnecessary and unjustified, especially considering the fact that colleague Mujagic was detained while performing journalistic tasks in the interest of the public and of importance to all citizens of Brod and BiH,” the statement said.

The association stressed that “warnings prohibiting the recording of certain objects must be clearly displayed in visible places and in all directions from which these objects are approached.”

Informing citizens on the installation of gas pipelines on the territory of the country conducted by another state – Croatia, “is a topic of priority importance for the public and does not refer to the decision of management to protect the territory of the Refinery from unauthorized filming,” the association argued, adding that “the reaction of the police – bringing journalists to the police station, was not proportionate.”

“If a journalist has committed a misdemeanor, he should certainly be held accountable in accordance with the law. However, the arrest and detention of journalists while performing journalistic tasks in the public interest is a gross attack on media freedoms and journalistic rights,” it said.

“Journalists and all other media professionals in Bosnia and Herzegovina often point out that they have very good communication with police officers and representatives of police institutions. Such incidents disrupt such a relationship and certainly do not contribute to mutual understanding between the two professions,” the association said, calling om the Ministry of the Interior of Bosnia’s Republika Srpska (RS) entity and Brod Police Station officials “to investigate the case in detail and do everything in their power to prevent such incidents in the future.”

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/bh-journalists-association-condemns-arrest-of-journalist-on-duty-in-brod/

US Embassy welcomes talks on forming working group for BiH election law reform

March 31, 2021

The US Embassy in Bosnia welcomed the discussion in the House of Representatives on the establishment of a working group to amend the election legislation and the “need for meaningful inclusion” of the Central Election Commission, civil society and other stakeholders in the process.

“Parliament and the Council of Ministers should complete the process without further delay so that serious work on key electoral reforms can begin,” the Embassy said.

However, the House of Representatives postponed the vote on the proposal for the establishment of the Inter-Agency Working Group, which was proposed by both houses.

The Special Representative of the European Union in BiH, Johann Sattler, also commented on the process and welcomed the “vibrant discussion” on the formation of the working group, emphasizing that this body must be inclusive and transparent in its work but stressing that it is important to “not lose more time” in tackling the issue.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/us-embassy-welcomes-talks-on-forming-working-group-for-bih-election-law-reform/

China donates 15 engineering vehicles to Bosnia's Armed Forces

March 31, 2021

The Chinese Ministry of National Defence had donated 15 engineering machines and vehicles including six brand new military unloading trucks, two tank hauliers with semi-trailers, two trucks with a loading crane, three backhoe loaders and one bulldozer and a compact loader with spare parts, at Rajlovac Barracks near Sarajevo on Wednesday.

“The cooperation with the People's Republic of China has its continuity,” said Minister Podzic. “This has resulted in a great contribution to the modernization of the Armed Forces of BiH, which in previous years has already taken over part of the engineering machines donated by the Ministry of National Defense of the People's Republic of China. Today, we are taking over a new donation, in accordance with the previously signed agreement between the Ministry of Defense of BiH and the Ministry of National Defense of the People's Republic of China, the value of which is around 2.5 million Bosnian marks (some €1.25 million). ”

Ambassador Ping, in his address, pointed out that over the past 25 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Bosnia, friendly relations between the two countries have been deepening, while relations between the armies of our two countries have risen to a higher level.

“Our armed forces maintain exchanges and mutual visits at a high level, with the continuous deepening of cooperation. I believe that in this way we are contributing to the further understanding and development of trust between the People's Republic of China and BiH. In the future, we are ready to further strengthen cooperation and coordination with the BiH Armed Forces, especially in the areas of peacekeeping operations, training, and education of personnel,” concluded Ambassador Ping.

The ceremony was attended, among others, by Bosnia's Minister of Defence Sifet Podzic, Deputy Minister of Defence for Resource Management Mirko Okolic, and on behalf of the donors – the Ministry of National Defense of the People's Republic of China, Ambassador Ji Ping and the military envoy of the People's Republic of China to BiH, Brigadier Su Qiang and his associates.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/china-donates-15-engineering-vehicles-to-bosnias-armed-forces/

EU, OSCE, US and Swedish embassies condemn attacks on Disciplinary Counsel BiH

March 31, 2021

An impartial, accountable, and efficient judiciary is essential for Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) to make progress on its EU path. In that sense, the Office of the Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) within the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC) is essential in guaranteeing that all judicial office holders and HJPC members in BiH promote these principles and adhere to the highest ethical standards, said the EU Delegation in BiH, U.S. Embassy, OSCE Mission and the Swedish Embassy to BiH in a joint statement on Wednesday.

“In the Analytical Report accompanying the European Commission’s Opinion on BiH’s application for EU membership, the EU recommended a strengthening of the ‘operational autonomy and independence in the decision-making of the Office of the Disciplinary Counsel’ as well as reducing the potential for ‘undue interference’.

Restoring citizens’ trust in their judiciary requires, among others, ensuring that the Office of the Disciplinary Counsel can enforce its mandate independently and impartially, free from any undue pressure and personal attacks on the integrity of its members. We support the functional independence of the ODC and its important work and we support all efforts to ensure it remains free from interference with its investigations,” the joint statement said.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/eu-osce-us-and-swedish-embassies-condemn-attacks-on-disciplinary-counsel-bih/

US Senator deeply disturbed by recent denial of Srebrenica genocide

March 31, 2021

The chairperson of the American Helsinki Commission, Senator Ben Cardin, stated that he was upset by the Montenegrin Justice Minister's statements questioning the conclusion of international courts on the events in Srebrenica from 1995.

“The facts about what happened in Srebrenica in July 1995 have been documented. International courts have confirmed, and the international community has widely accepted, that these facts meet the definition of genocide,” Cardin told the Voice of America.

“I am disturbed that any official of any country neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina would question that conclusion – especially someone who understands the dangerous extremes of nationalism in the Balkans and who is responsible for advancing the rule of law,” Senator Cardin said in a written statement when asked by the Voice of America that the Helsinki Commission comment on the recent statement of the Montenegrin Minister of Justice Vladimir Leposavic that he will recognize the genocide in Srebrenica “when the facts are unequivocally established.”

Cardin, a Democratic senator from Maryland and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, took over as chairman of the Helsinki Commission last week, where he has been since 1993.

The State Department, also in response to a Voice of America inquiry, said Monday that “the United States’ position on the Srebrenica genocide is long-lasting and unwavering,” and that “a painful chapter in European history must never be denied or forgotten.”
The United Nations, the European Union, and numerous Western embassies, including the American one in Podgorica, issued a message that genocide must not be denied or relativized, following the allegations of the Montenegrin Minister of Justice.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/us-senator-deeply-disturbed-by-recent-denial-of-srebrenica-genocide/

BiH officials condemn swastika graffiti on Sarajevo rock legend's obituary

March 31, 2021

Sarajevo public was shocked Tuesday evening when the Jewish Community published a photo of a swastika drawn on an obituary of Zelimir Altarac Cicak (74), a Sarajevo rock legend of Jewish descent who died from Covid-19 last week, which was swiftly condemned as antisemitic by some of the highest state officials, calling for an immediate police investigation.

Bosnian Croat Presidency member said that “antisemitism and fascism must not be allowed to gain an inch of space,” adding that he expects the police to find the perpetrator of this shameful act as quickly as possible.

Our Party as well as the Alliance of Anti-Fascists and Fighters of the National Liberation War (SABNOR) – the WW2 association of veterans and their supporters, also expressed condemnation of the shameful act.

“The swastika on Zelimir Altarac Cicak’s obituary is a threat to the Jewish community but also to all of us,” the party said, adding that the swastika on the obituary of a man who gave an undeniable contribution to the identity of Sarajevo and the regional cultural scene is a swastika on everybody’s home.

“The reactions of Sarajevans are comforting, though, showing that this is an isolated incident. However, only a swift legal action against that individual that these acts remain isolated and rare,” Our Party said.

They too urged the local police to immediately investigate and bring to justice the perpetrator(s) of this act of vandalism.

The SABNOR BiH said that “such cases are an attack on the civilization values of BiH, its cultural substance and historical heritage.”

Bosniak Presidency member Sefik Dzaferovic said “it is a disturbing hate speech and advocacy of evil which has no place in our society. I offer full support to the Jewish Community in BiH and urge all competent police bodies to bring the culprits to justice as soon as possible.

Deputy Chairman of BiH House of Representatives Denis Zvizdic also condemned the barbaric act saying:

“The creator(s) of this senseless act, contrary to the libertarian, multiethnic and anti-fascist spirit of Sarajevo, must be found and adequately sanctioned. BiH was and will remain, a unique space of centuries of civilization, and a paradigm of a multiethnic society, respect for the other and different, human solidarity of anti-fascist values.”

The Jewish community in Sarajevo announced and strongly condemned the barbaric act of drawing a swastika on the obituary of the recently deceased member of the Sarajevo Jewish Community and the honorary citizen of the Sarajevo Zelimir Altarac Cicak.

Altarac (74), a legend of the Sarajevo music scene, was buried in the city cemetery of Bare. He died on March 26th in Sarajevo as a result of a Covid-19 infection.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/bih-officials-condemn-swastika-graffiti-on-sarajevo-rock-legends-obituary/

US State Department's report on human rights in BiH

March 31, 2021

The US State Department has released a report on human rights in the world in 2020, including BiH. The report talks about justice, corruption, civil liberties, freedom to participate in political processes, discrimination, violence. Below are just some of the findings from the report.

Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

Impunity for some crimes committed during the 1992-95 conflict continued to be a problem, especially for those responsible for the approximately 8,000 persons killed in the Srebrenica genocide and for approximately 8,000 other individuals who remained missing and presumed killed during the conflict. Authorities also failed to prosecute more than a very small fraction of the more than 20,000 instances of sexual violence alleged to have occurred during the conflict.

During the year national authorities did not make sufficient progress in the processing of war crimes due to the lack of strategic framework and long-lasting organizational and financial problems.

Denial of Fair Public Trial

The state constitution provides the right to a fair hearing in civil and criminal matters while entity constitutions provide for an independent judiciary. Nevertheless, political parties and organized crime figures sometimes influenced the judiciary at both the state and entity levels in politically sensitive cases, especially those related to corruption. Authorities at times failed to enforce court decisions.

Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press

The law provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, but governmental respect for this right remained poor during the year. Intimidation, harassment, and threats, including a number of death threats, against journalists and media outlets continued during the year without a systematic institutional response. Numerous restrictive measures introduced to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic were in some instances misused to limit access to information. A considerable amount of media coverage was dominated by nationalist rhetoric and ethnic and political bias, often encouraging intolerance and sometimes hatred. The absence of transparency in media ownership remained a problem.

Freedom of Speech: The country’s laws provide for a high level of freedom of expression, but the irregular and, in some instances, incorrect implementation and application of the law seriously undermined press freedoms. The law prohibits expression that provokes racial, ethnic, or other forms of intolerance, including “hate speech,” but authorities did not enforce these restrictions.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

The law provides for freedom of peaceful assembly, and the government generally respected this right. On May 12, however, RS police disbanded an informal gathering and conversation of approximately 10 members of the informal group Justice for David in the Banja Luka city centre, warning the participants that their public gathering was not announced to police. The leader of the group, Ozren Perduv, was summoned by police for interrogation the same day, where he was told that any similar gatherings in the future, even if spontaneous, would not be tolerated. Justice for David reported that there were an estimated 60 active court cases against Justice for David supporters in the RS court system. In 30 additional cases, the court rejected all charges.

The Justice for David movement emerged in response to the 2018 killing of 21-year-old David Dragicevic, which had not been solved as of September.

The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community had planned to organize a second pride march on August 23 in Sarajevo. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers decided not to hold an actual march and moved the event online. Even before moving the event online, however, organizers faced many bureaucratic obstacles, as the Sarajevo Canton Ministry of Traffic rejected their request for a change in the march route, citing purported financial losses to public transportation companies, notwithstanding that the march would be on a Sunday when public transportation use is significantly lower. The cantonal Ministry of Interior also required the organizers to pay for excessive security measures, including the presence of two ambulances, two fire trucks, and concrete barriers at nine locations along the march route. Similar security requirements were regularly waived for other large, non-LGBTI events.

Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively nor prioritize public corruption as a serious problem. Courts have not processed high-level corruption cases, and in most of the finalized cases, suspended sentences were pronounced. Officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity, and corruption remained prevalent in many political and economic institutions. Corruption was especially prevalent in the health and education sectors, public procurement processes, local governance, and public administration employment procedures.

The government has mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption, but political pressure often prevented the application of these mechanisms.

Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Rape and Domestic Violence: The maximum penalty for rape, regardless of gender, including spousal rape, is 15 years in prison. The failure of police to treat spousal rape as a serious offense inhibited the effective enforcement of the law. Women victims of rape did not have regular access to free social support or assistance and continued to confront prejudice and discrimination in their communities and from representatives of public institutions.

Worker Rights

According to informal estimates, approximately 40 percent of the workforce was unregistered and working in the informal economy.

The lack of workers’ rights was more pronounced in the private sector largely due to weaker unions in the private sector and to the broad and pronounced weakness of the rule of law.

The government did not effectively enforce all applicable laws. Authorities did not impose sanctions against employers who prevented workers from organizing. Inspections related to worker rights were limited. Ministry inspectors gave low priority to violations of worker rights; state officials focused instead on bolstering revenues by cracking down on unregistered employees and employers who did not pay taxes.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/us-state-departments-report-on-human-rights-in-bih/

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