The Bosnian Constitutional Court declared the holiday illegal because it discriminates against Bosnian Muslim and Croatian Catholic communities.
The Bosnian Serbs staged public celebrations to mark the national day of their Autonomous Serbian Republic, defying a supreme tribunal’s ban on commemoration and US sanctions imposed on their leader Milorad Dodik this week.
The January 9 holiday commemorates the date in 1992 when the Bosnian Serbs declared the establishment of their own state in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He unleashed a devastating war that lasted almost four years and left 100,000 dead.
The date also coincides with a Serbian Orthodox Christian holiday, and it is this religious component that led the Bosnian Constitutional Court to declare the holiday illegal because it discriminated against the Bosnian Muslim and Croatian Catholic communities in the region.
More than 800 armed police, including members of counterterrorism units, gendarmerie and cavalry, took part in the parade on Sunday alongside students, veterans and athletes through the streets of the region’s largest city. , Banja Luka.
Crowds of spectators and demonstrators waved red, blue and white Serbian flags. Members of a special police unit sang songs referring to the Serbian Republic as a state of Christian heritage.
Liljana Smiljanic of Al Jazeera, reporting from Banja Luka, Bosnia, said that if for Serbs the date was “sacred” it meant something completely different for Bosnians.
“They [Bosnian Serbs] say it [January 9 holiday] guarantees them freedom and the best living conditions in Bosnia and Herzegovina. On the other hand, for the Bosnians… this is the beginning of the horrors of war they endured in the 90s, and later of the war crimes and genocide in Srebrenica, ”she added.
The parade and other ceremonies were attended by senior officials from neighboring Serbia, including Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and Speaker of Parliament Ivica Dacic. Russian and Chinese diplomats in Bosnia and several officials of the French far-right Rassemblement national party were also present.
There was no sign of the Bosnian Joint Armed Forces Serbian regiment, which had been deployed for the parade in previous years. Instead, the focus was on the militarized police force, which led the parade with specially designed combat vehicles as helicopters flew overhead.
Dodik, who is currently a Serbian member of the Bosnian interethnic tripartite presidency, said “that there is no freedom for the Serbian people without the state”, in a speech to the crowd watching the parade.
The pro-Russian nationalist has repeatedly threatened to withdraw Serbian representatives from the Bosnian armed forces, tax system and judiciary and to create separate Serbian institutions.
Last Wednesday, he was freshly sanctioned by the United States for corruption and undermining the stability and territorial integrity of Bosnia.
The Dayton Peace Agreement brokered by the United States in 1995 ended three and a half years of ethnic warfare in Bosnia, dividing the Balkan country into two self-governing regions – the Serbian Republic and the Bosnian-dominated Federation and the Croats.
“Everything he does and announces he will do is not in accordance with the constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as the Dayton Peace Agreement,” said Smijanic of Al Jazeera.
“It’s a base for everything here in this country,” she added.
Dodik’s secessionist rhetoric in recent months has encouraged Serbian nationalists, who in recent days have provoked incidents across the Serbian Republic, shooting in the air near mosques during prayers, publicly praising convicted war criminals and threatening their victims. Muslim neighbors.
He described the Bosnians as “second class people” and “traitorous converts” who sold their “original [Orthodox Christian] faith for dinner ”.