The UN is “deeply concerned” by incidents which have seen individuals “glorifying atrocities and convicting war criminals”.
The United Nations has expressed concern over recent incidents of hate speech and incitement to violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, fearing that inflammatory acts could intensify ahead of this year’s elections.
Bosnian Serbs celebrated their national day on Sunday, marking the creation of Republika Srpska (RS) – the Bosnian Serb entity declared three decades ago.
It was one of the events seen as setting the country on the path to war in Bosnia in the 1990s, which killed an estimated 100,000 people and forced two million more from their homes.
In a statement released on Friday, the spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said the UN was “deeply concerned” by incidents that saw individuals “glorifying atrocity crimes and condemning war criminals, target certain communities with hate speech and, in some cases, directly incite violence”.
Liz Throssell said people chanted the name of convicted war criminal Ratko Mladic in torchlight processions, sang nationalist songs calling for the takeover of places in the former Yugoslavia and in one incident, individuals fired in the air in front of a mosque.
Local media and victims’ associations pointed out that in Foca on Saturday several hundred people watched a fireworks display organized by Red Star Belgrade football fans during which a large portrait of Mladic was unveiled on a building.
The former Bosnian Serb general was sentenced to life in prison for war crimes in Bosnia, including the Srebrenica massacre and the siege of Sarajevo.
Serbia and Bosnia will hold elections in April and October, respectively, and Throssell warned that “continued inflammatory and nationalist rhetoric” risks exacerbating an “extremely tense” political environment in 2022.
“These incidents – some in places that saw large-scale atrocities during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, such as Prijedor and Foca – are an affront to survivors, including those who returned home after the conflict,” reads -on in his statement.
“The failure to prevent and sanction such acts, which fuel a climate of extreme anxiety, fear and insecurity in some communities, is a major obstacle to building trust and reconciliation.
Throssell’s comments came as Bosnia faced its worst political crisis since the 1990s, after Bosnian Serbs blocked the work of the central government and Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik threatened to step down. state institutions, including the military, the judiciary and the tax system.
The 1995 Dayton Peace Accord, brokered by the United States, ended three and a half years of war in Bosnia. The agreement also established Bosnia and Herzegovina as a two-entity state: a Bosnian-Croat-dominated federation and a Serb-led Republika Srpska.
Dodik is the Serbian member of the tripartite presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and he threatened secession from Republika Srpska for 15 years.
His recent comments prompted further sanctions earlier this month from the United States, which accused Dodik of corruption and threatening the stability and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Dodik rejected the measures, saying the sanctions were “exerted by several American officials who do not share the vision of Bosnia and Herzegovina that I have and which was signed in 1995”.