A Crisis of Sovereignty for BiH

Sarajevo, 28. November 2022- 23
Russia's Invasion of Ukraine and the Crime of Aggression: A Crisis of Sovereignty for BiH  

As we honor Bosnia's Statehood Day, we also recognize a crisis in sovereignty; a crisis provoked, in part, by the Russian Federation's illegal invasion of Ukraine. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has called for the establishment of an ad hoc international criminal tribunal to “investigate and prosecute the crime of aggression allegedly committed by the political and military leadership of the Russian Federation”.
It is important to note that the Russian Federation’s invasion, and the commission of the crime of aggression against Ukraine, was motivated by an ideological conception of a “Russian World”. This is a vision that is by parts imperialist, by parts fascist, and by parts genocidal. According to the “Russian World,” Ukraine does not exist, but is only something like a buffer, or “soft tissue,” between Russia and the West.
               The “Russian World” has echoes in the Balkans in a “Serbian World,” a rebranded “Greater Serbia,” which possesses similarly imperialist designs in its relation to Bosnia. The idea of “Greater Serbia” was supported by the 1986 Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences (SANU) memorandum, which alleged persecution, and cultural genocide against Serbs and called for their unification. As the “Russian World” has driven the aggression in Ukraine, the “Greater Serbia” ideology was a rallying cry for the aggression of the 90's against Bosnia and Herzegovina. The imperialist impulse of Greater Serbia engendered the territory of “Republika Srpska” within Bosnia, leading to nothing less than a genocidal undertaking in service to “Greater Serbia.”
Former Serbian minister of the interior, Aleksandar Vulin, has been promoting a “Serbian world”, stating that, “the creation of the Serbian world is a process that cannot be stopped,” and emphasizing that it is important that all Serbs, regardless of where they live, be united.” The “Russian World “and the “Serbian World” (previously “Greater Serbia”) have brought about aggression–ideological and actual–against the sovereignty of Ukraine and of Bosnia respectively.
But there has been another “world” threatening Bosnia: a “Croatian World”. Croatian nationals were found to have been engaged in atrocities in Bosnia as part of what was judged to be a Joint Criminal Enterprise and an “armed conflict of an international character.” The aggression perpetrated from Serbia and from Croatia against Bosnia was not prosecuted as a “crime of aggression” because the ICTY simply did not have jurisdiction to do so.
Although not prosecuted as a “crime of aggression,” in a joint letter two former High Representatives, Valentin Inzko and Christian Schwarz-Schilling warned that “Serbia and Republika Srpska have not achieved their goals from the 1990s. They nurture very close relations with Russia. Therefore, we are afraid that the current aggression against Ukraine could spread to the Western Balkans, primarily to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo”.
The  Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, for its part, reminded us in May 2022 of the aggressive designs of Croatia on Bosnia and Herzegovina. In a document that is reminiscent of the “SANU memorandum,” the “HAZU memorandum” claims that Bosnian Croats are being persecuted and their basic human rights violated. The memorandum asserts that the right of Bosnian Croats to elect a legitimate “Croatian” member of the Presidency must be protected. The memorandum also insists that the equality of the Croatian people must be ensured with a  “third entity and all the rights arising therefrom.” Croatia's call for so-called legitimate representation has been endorsed by the Russian Federation, in its ongoing efforts to undermine Bosnia's sovereignty.
               It is precisely in this context that High Representative Schmidt’s October 2 decisions were problematic. By Mr. Schmidt's own account, part of his reform was designed to satisfy the Ljubić case, which had raised the issue of “legitimate” Croat representation. Prime Minister Plenković and Mr. Čović welcomed High Representative Christian Schmidt's reform initiative, saying that it would help “ensure legitimate representation of Croats in the Federation's Parliament.” Hence, the High Representative’s decision seemed to have been implemented in service of the Bosnian Croat nationalist HDZ party and to the vision of the HAZU memorandum.
Further, it seems that the Bosniak vote has been devalued as a result of Mr. Schmidt’s election reform decision and the Bosnian Croat vote has been overvalued. In one example, in Goražde, where there are approximately 22,300 Bosniaks, 24 Croats, 885 Serbs and 512 others, Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats, as well as those who declare themselves as others, get one delegate each. The equal distribution of delegates seems difficult to explain, and there are more problematic cases. There is also a general deficiency in the sense that the High Representative’s reform was organized in terms of constituent peoples and vital interests and thereby only reinforces the role of ethnic parties in the selection of representatives rather than allowing for a democratic vote according to judgements of the ECtHR, including the Sejdić-Finci or Zornić cases, which have been completely ignored. Bosnia is being prohibited from functioning as a normal democracy. The ethnic voting blocks entrench ethnic divisions, providing additional influence to Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat nationalist parties and potentially isolate the Bosniak majority in a continuation of the genocidal goals of the 90s. Dodik’s and Cović’s recent declaration of their “partnership” in a nationalist block will ensure this isolation. High Representative Schmidt’s recent decisions can be seen as supporting ideologies that seek to undermine Bosnia’s sovereignty today.
               Since the Russian Federation occupied Donbass and Crimea in 2014, the threats to Bosnia’s territorial integrity have continued to increase. The Russian Federation has been, by its own statements, and by its support for Serbia and Croatia, actively undermining Bosnia's sovereignty. By supporting Croat and Serb nationalists in Bosnia, the Russian Federation advances its thinly disguised revival of Russian imperialism in the region. The crisis of sovereignty for Bosnia is more acute than ever as Republika Srpska renews threats of secession, attempting to position itself as another Donbass, a breakaway entity.                As the US, EU and NATO continue to respond resolutely to the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine, seeking to defeat the ideology of the “Russian World” and to prosecute the Russian Federation for war crimes, including the crime of aggression, so they must counter efforts by Serbia, Republika Srpska, and Croatia to undermine Bosnia’s sovereignty in order to achieve their goals of aggression from the 90s. In opposition to the Russian, Croatian and Serbian “worlds” it is incumbent upon the High Representative and international community to support a “democratic world” in Bosnia in a way that responds to the voices of citizens who have been demanding the right to a civil state, and that moves Bosnia ever closer to EU and NATO membership.
Summary of Session of 27. 2022
The presenter at this session was prof. dr. David Pettigrew, Professor of Philosophy, and Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Southern Connecticut State University, Member, Steering Committee Yale University Genocide Studies Program

  Adil Kulenović, President
Association of Independent Intellectuals – Circle 99 (Bosnian: Krug 99), a leading Bosnian think-tank, was established in Sarajevo in 1993, in the midst of the Bosnian war (1992-1995), while the capital was under siege. Circle 99 provides a platform to bring together intellectuals of various professional and ethnic identities; university professors, members of the Academy of Sciences and Arts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, artists, journalists, entrepreneurs, diplomats, and other prominent figures from Bosnia and from abroad. Multidisciplinary discussions and initiatives are held each Sunday throughout the academic year, in the form of regular sessions about politics, science, education, culture, economy, and other societal issues. The overall goal is to sensitize the public towards a democratic transformation, achieving and maintaining peace, and integration of modern Bosnia into the community of countries fostering liberal democracy. Circle 99 has been declared an organization of special significance for the city of Sarajevo.