Bosnia & Herzegovina will appeal the 2007 judgment in an International Court of Justice (ICJ) genocide case against Serbia, Bakir Izetbegovic, the Bosniak member of Bosnia & Herzegovina’s tripartite presidency, said on February 17.
Izetbegovic’s statement, which has not been endorsed by Croat or Serb officials, has sharply raised tensions in the already unstable Balkan country.
In 2007, the ICJ ruled that the 1995 massacre of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys from Srebrenica by Bosnian Serb forces was genocide, and that Serbia breached the Geneva Convention by failing to prevent it. However, the court decided that there was not enough proof to show that Bosnian Serb forces committing the genocide acted under the “direction” or “effective control” of Serbia.
Bosnia can appeal the verdict by the end of February and Izetbegovic has said the country must challenge the ICJ’s ruling, public broadcaster BHRT reported.
A council comprising 50 Bosniak experts and politicians met on February 17 to discuss whether the country has grounds to appeal the judgement. However, no Serbs and Croats participated in the council.
“Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats have lived together for centuries and will continue this way, but a life securing the wellbeing of all nations can be built only based on the truth as a solid foundation,” Izetbegovic told reporters after the council.
Following Izetbegovic’s statement, Serb political leaders accused him of breaching the Dayton peace agreement, under which such a decision should be backed by all three presidents.
Izetbegovic claimed that a lawyer the presidency appointed in 2002 would file the appeal, which he said does not breach the Dayton accord. However, this claim was questioned by a source from ICJ source quoted by Nezavisne Novine, who said that an appeal can only be filed by an institution, not by a lawyer.
The Bosniak leader also claimed that the country has gathered new evidence and the appeal will be filed within the coming week.
During the Srebrenica trial, key evidence – the minutes from meetings of the wartime Yugoslav high command, which included ex-Yugoslavia’s strongman Slobodan Milosevic – was not available for use, although the UN war crimes court had the minutes and used them in Milosevic’s trial. Serbia successfully argued that sections of the documents should be kept confidential for national security reasons.
“We have a legal team in which I trust, and I will not talk about this proof unless the court does not accept the appeal,” daily Nezavisne Novine quoted Izetbegovic as saying.
Mladen Ivanic, the Serb member of the Bosnian presidency and its current chairman, said that he will notify the Peace Implementation Council (PIC), which is responsible for ensuring the Dayton accord is respected.
“I intend to write to the PIC member countries, which are guarantors of the Dayton agreement, and inform them that this is the biggest challenge the Dayton [accord] has faced ever: parallelism and demolition of the institutions of BiH,” Nezavisne Novine quoted Ivanic as saying.
Ivanic warned that the situation could provoke clashes and that Izetbegovic’s intention is to resurrect pre-war themes in the country.
“Identification of BiH with only one nation is a return to pre-war themes and I think this is a serious political situation. As a consequence, the consensus in decision-making was abandoned [by Izetbegovic]. In the past, neither I, nor Mr. [Dragan] Covic [the Croat member of the presidency] have violated this,” Ivanic said.
Milorad Dodik, the president of Bosnia’s Serb entity Republika Srpska, also said that Izetbegovic’s intention violates the Dayton agreement, and claimed that his move highlights the fact that Bosnia is not functional state. Dodik has been threatening for years that Republika Srpska will secede from Bosnia.
Meanwhile, Izetbegovic downplayed warnings of political turmoil following the appeal. He said that while there would be a political crisis, it will not be significant.