The UN is “deeply concerned” by incidents in which “individuals glorify atrocity crimes and convicted 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 an escalation of incitement ahead of elections this year.
Bosnian Serbs celebrated their national day on Sunday marking the founding of the Bosnian Serb Republic – the Bosnian Serb entity declared three decades ago.
One event seen as setting the country on the path to war was in Bosnia in the 1990s, which claimed nearly 100,000 lives and forced two million more from their homes.
In a statement Friday, a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the UN was “deeply concerned” by incidents that saw individuals “glorifying atrocity crimes and convicted war criminals, targeting specific communities with hate speech and, in some cases, direct incitement to violence.”
Liz Throssell said people chanted the name of convicted war criminal Ratko Mladic during the torchlight processions, sang patriotic songs calling for the seizure of positions in the former Yugoslavia, and in one incident, individuals fired shots into the air outside a mosque.
Local media and victims’ associations highlighted that in Foca, on Saturday, several hundred people attended a fireworks display organized by fans of the Red Star Belgrade football team, in which a large picture of Mladic was revealed on one of the buildings.
A former Bosnian Serb general was sentenced to life imprisonment for war crimes in Bosnia, notably in the Srebrenica massacre and the siege of Sarajevo.
Serbia and Bosnia will hold elections in April and October respectively, and Throssell warned that “ongoing inflammatory nationalist rhetoric” could exacerbate an “extremely tense” political environment in 2022.
“These incidents – some in locations that witnessed widespread atrocity crimes 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,” its statement read.
“Failure to prevent and punish such acts, which fuel a climate of intense anxiety, fear and insecurity in some societies, 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 central government and Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik threatened to withdraw from state institutions, including the army, judiciary and tax system.
The 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement brokered by the United States ended a three-and-a-half year war in Bosnia. The agreement also established Bosnia and Herzegovina as a state consisting of two entities: a federation dominated by Bosnian Croats and Republika Srpska administered by Serbs.
Dodik is the Serbian member of the tripartite presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina and has threatened the secession of Republika Srpska for 15 years.
His recent comments sparked new 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 dismissed these measures, saying that the sanctions were “done by many US officials who do not share my Bosnia and Herzegovina vision that was signed in 1995.”