Announcement by the High Representative

Finally – a law against genocide denial in Bosnia (Press Release)

The High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Austrian Valentin Inzko, has announced a long overdue law against the denial of genocide crimes. In a press interview a few days ago, he confirmed that he is planning to use his so-called "Bonn powers" for this purpose if the country's parliament is not willing to pass an according law on its own accord soon. Serbian politicians have been trying to prevent such a law for years. "Throughout the past 25 years, the survivors of the crimes and the relatives of the victims have been waiting for an initiative to finally make the denial of genocide crimes a punishable offence," explained Jasna Causevic, expert on genocide prevention and the Responsibility to Protect at the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP). "This step is crucial for peace in Bosnia and for the future of the country. On the 26th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre – July 11, 2021 – it will hopefully no longer be allowed to claim that this mass murder did not take place."

Genocide denial is widespread, particularly in the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska. "There, Serbian children are taught an imaginary version of the story at school. Completely distorted myths of heroes and victims are passed on to the next generation," Causevic criticized. "Convicted war criminals are openly worshipped in the Serbian part of Bosnia, state institutions are named after them and monuments are erected for them – but memorials for the victims are prevented. Under these conditions, there can be no lasting reconciliation. On the contrary: We will most likely see even more violence." 

A legal regulation, similar to the ban on Holocaust denial in Germany and Austria, is not only a matter of justness. Reconciliation and peace are to be seen as crucial prerequisites for the further development of Bosnia. The country is striving to become a member of the European Union and NATO. "Bosnia still has a lot of work to do on this path. However, the necessary reforms in public administration and the fight against corruption and organized crime are being blocked by the Republika Srpska, of all places," Causevic emphasized, adding that it is due to the Dayton Peace Agreement that the Republika Srpska is able to do so.

The Dayton Peace Agreement, which formally ended the war in Bosnia, celebrated its 25th anniversary a few days ago. On this occasion, the STP published a memorandum that analyzes the massive deficits of the agreement and its effects on the present. The STP's memorandum on the situation 25 years after Dayton (in German language) can be found here.