Condemning Unconstitutional January 9th Celebrations

Condemning Unconstitutional January 9th Celebrations

The Congress of Bosniaks of North America strongly condemns the provocative and unconstitutional celebration of January 9th. The Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina has ruled several times that celebrating January 9th is unconstitutional. Observing this day as a public holiday not only perpetuates historical grievances but also undermines efforts toward reconciliation and the fostering of a shared national identity.

The events of January 9, 1992 triggered formation of concentration camps, mass rape and systematic killings, which culminated in genocide, resulting in the bloodiest conflict on European soil since the end of World War II. The Republika Srpska (RS) entity has once again chosen to celebrate those events with a parade glorifying war criminals and further advancing the irrational idea that the war crimes and genocide were committed in order to create the RS entity and liberate the Bosnian Serbs. During this year’s parade, we witnessed Dodik greeting the police with the words “POMOZ BOG, JUNACI,” the same salute used by Nazi-aligned Chetniks in WWII. At the same time, hooligans from neighboring Serbia organized a fireworks display in Visegrad, and chanted the name of Ratko Mladic, at a site where mass executions of Bosniaks were committed. Days leading up to January 9th were filled with intimidations and threats towards Bosniak returnees in and around Vlasenica and Srebrenica. These threats are a clear indication of the potential ramifications if action is not taken promptly.

Additionally abhorrent is the attendance of various Bosnian Serbs who hold high office in Bosnia’s national institutions – thus undermining the country and the offices they are supposed to serve. The alarming list of attendees included the son of convicted war criminal Ratko Mladic, known as “the butcher of Bosnia,” Putin’s Night Wolves, and the son of Kremlin-aligned Alexandar Vucic. It is increasingly evident that as long as RS is led by hardline nationalist Serbs, the permanent peace and stability in Bosnia and of Southeast Europe will remain elusive.

We are equally troubled by actions coming from neighboring Serbia. President Vucic’s words of support for Bosnia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty ring hollow and are completely undermined by actions in Serbia that otherwise evidence its support of January 9th. Not only was Dodik visited by high ranking military officials from Serbia the night before the parade, the parade was celebrated with a synchronized fireworks display in Serbia. These actions completely negate the false rhetoric coming from Serbia about supporting Bosnia’s statehood, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Serbia and politicians in the RS entity, acting as Russian proxies, are using January 9th to further sow chaos in Southeast Europe and undermine the peace, democracy and stability in the region. The US and the EU must take decisive steps and actions to deter the escalation of tensions in Bosnia on account of the conflict in the Middle East and in Ukraine. The time for issuing statements and economic sanctions that merely serve as badges of honor for those on the receiving end of them has passed – it is time for more concrete action. We request an immediate increase in EUFOR troops in Bosnia for security reasons, and request that the US (as a member of the Peace Implementation Council) require the OHR to take concrete actions to remove those politicians in RS who continue to undermine Bosnia’s institutions and territorial integrity, especially Bosnia’s Constitutional Court, and are taking decisive steps each day to make their dream of secession a reality.