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Escalation of genocide denial and glorification of war criminals in RS

Text: Hana Imamović, FENA Photo/Archive

SARAJEVO, April 16 (FENA) - A group of several Bosnians and Herzegovinians and Americans of BiH origin joined around a "Working Group for Bosnia and Herzegovina" sent a letter today to High Representative Valentin Inzko again warning him of escalating genocide denial and glorification of war criminals in the entity of Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

As David Pettigrew, a professor of the Holocaust and genocide studies at the University of Southern Connecticut told FENA, the "Working Group for BiH" seeks to raise awareness and improve diplomatic policy in priority areas of NATO membership, EU accession and helping to end genocide denial and glorifying war criminals.

This group was formed, among other things, to encourage the US foreign policy leadership to renew relations with European partners and NATO, but also to make the sovereignty and stability of BiH and the stability of the region a high priority of the international community.

They were formed as a group to contact the administration of US President Joe Biden and raise awareness of the international aggression and genocide committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 to 1995.

As part of their activities, they held two meetings with High Representative Inzko, including a public event on 28 February on "Ending the War in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Ending Genocide Denial and Glorifying War Criminals: A Talk with the High Representative".

"We supported his initiative to remove the plaque from the Student Home in Pale, placed there to honor war criminal and founder of the Republika Srpska, Radovan Karadžić, and to cancel the recognition awarded to him by the Assembly of the RS Republika in 2016," stated the founders of the group.

High Representative Inzko explained that he had waited to respond to the glorification of war criminals until a second-instance verdict or final verdict was reached and that this justification is often implied or stated in existing legislation against genocide denial and glorification of war criminals.

However, in their letter to the High Representative, the signatories expressed deep concern that in the five years since Karadžić's first-instance verdict, genocide denial, glorification of war criminals and celebration of genocide and other war crimes have permeated the culture of the entity of Republika Srpska.

The problem is that many monuments and ceremonies, such as those in Prijedor, Bijeljina and Višegrad, which refer to the "defenders of Republika Srpska" are not disputed, and the glorification of war criminals continues with impunity, including chanting, slogans and carrying banners.

The signatories called on the High Representative to condemn such a culture of denial and glorification pervading the Republika Srpska and to take immediate action, through the Bonn powers, to combat the culture of hatred and provocation in the entity of Republika Srpska.

Furthermore, they appealed to establish a commission that will include representatives of BiH diaspora to document and publicly condemn cases of denial, glorification and triumphalism through public education campaigns and the preparation of plans to stop such processes, and they expressed a willingness to assist in that.

After the House of Peoples of the BiH Parliamentary Assembly refused to adopt amendments to the Criminal Code banning genocide denial, they called on the High Representative to follow up on his promise to impose a state law against genocide denial and glorification of war criminals.

"Your actions in this regard would be a crucial step in re-establishing the rule of law in society after the genocide and in protecting survivors from further intimidation and trauma," the signatories said.

The letter cites several examples of memorials celebrating war criminals, such as Chetnik leader Dražo Mihailović, who received a mural in Foča, and the Bijeljina City Assembly voted to build a monument to Mihailović.

This year, on April 12, the Višegrad municipality organized an official ceremony in honor of Russian volunteers who died while committing atrocities under the banner of the so-called Republika Srpska Army.

The Minister of Labor and Veterans' Protection of the RS, Duško Milunović, and the Mayor of Višegrad, Mladen Đurević, celebrated the Russian volunteers as heroes of the "patriotic defense" of the Republika Srpska.

"An entire generation of young people in the entity of Republika Srpska is growing up with the impression that war criminals are heroes. The denial of genocide, the glorification of war criminals and the celebration of genocide are clear indications that crimes could be repeated, which is a matter of great concern. Such a practice excludes the possibility of restorative justice and denies the future to the survivors," underlined the signatories of the letter sent to HR Inzko.

Therefore, in the end, they called on the Office of the High Representative in BiH to strongly condemn such practices, to do everything possible to remove monuments and plaques to the perpetrators of the most heinous crimes, and to ban and criminalize genocide celebrations at sports events.