The parliament of Bosnia’s Republika Srpska elected the daughter of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, Sonja Karadzic-Jovicevic, as deputy speaker on December 22.
While Karadzic-Jovicevic’s appointment appears to be largely symbolic, it comes at a time when the leaders of the mainly ethnic Serb Republika Srpska in Bosnia & Herzegovina have been pushing at the boundaries of the Dayton accord that ended the Bosnian war two decades ago.
Karadzic-Jovicevic, of the opposition Serb Democratic Party (SDS), founded by her father, was elected by a significant majority just over a year after entering the parliament in October 2014.
The MP for Pale, Karadzic’s wartime headquarters, Karadzic-Jovicevic has frequently spoken out in defence of her father, who is standing trial for genocide and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.
Karadzic’s trial is the biggest war crimes trial in Europe since the Nuremberg tribunal for Nazi atrocities after the second world war. He is accused of leading the slaughter of thousands of Bosnian Muslims and Croats. Over 8,000 people were killed in the Srebrenica massacre. The verdict is expected in 2016.
The backing for Karadzic-Jovicevic comes as no surprise given the increasingly aggressive stance by the leaders of the Republika Srpska, the smaller of the two autonomous entities that make up the country.
There have been constant signals recently of the entity’s desire to remain closer to Serbia and Russia rather than joining forces with Bosnia’s other entity – the Muslim-Croat Federation - in order to speed up the country’s EU accession process.
Worryingly, the Republika Srpska has made several political moves in the past six months showing it could breach the Dayton peace agreement that ended the 1992-1995 war, with possible implications for Bosnia’s future as a state.
In July, the entity’s president Milorad Dodik announced plans for a referendum on the authority of the state-level judicial institutions. The referendum would challenge the authority of the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, who is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Dayton agreement.
The date was initially set for November 15, 2015, but was postponed after a court challenge. A new date has not been set yet, but the leader of the opposition NDP party Dragan Cavic said in September that the Republika Srpska could hold the referendum in mid-March 2016 or even in the summer. The planned referendum provoked a strong negative international reaction since it would breach the Dayton agreement with potentially serious consequences for stability in the country.
In December, Republika Srpska’s government said it will end cooperation with national courts, prosecutors and the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) following raids in the town of Novi Grad, apparently in connection to a war crimes investigation.
The move further escalated tensions between Bosnia’s national institutions and the government of the Republika Srpska. However, a few days later, the government stepped back from its decision to break ties with SIPA and initiated efforts to sign a new cooperation agreement.
Another signal of Republika Srpska’s readiness to breach the Dayton agreement came from the head of the entity’s representation in the US, Obrad Kesic. In an interview with Sputnik, quoted by Bosnian daily Nezabisne Novine, Kesic said that Republika Srpska should “clash” for its vital interests. He added that clashes do not mean war, but that the entity should be ready to “defend its national interests”,
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