Bosnia’s Serb leader Dodik stands trial for snubbing peace envoy
Bosnian Serb leader Dodik on trial for defying international envoy, raising concerns about post-war stability.
SARAJEVO, BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA – OCTOBER 16: Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik (C) leaves the court after appearing before the judge at the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina on October 16, 2023. (Photo by Samir Jordamovic/Anadolu via Getty Images)
The leader of Bosnia’s Serbs Milorad Dodik made a brief appearance at the opening of his trial Wednesday, after being indicted for refusing to recognise rulings made by an international envoy charged with overseeing the country’s landmark peace accords.
Dodik’s trial marks a potential tipping point for post-war Bosnia, testing the weak central government’s ability to hold a leading politician to account after openly flouting the country’s peace accords and court system.
The unprecedented court case in the capital, Sarajevo, follows months of mounting tensions after Dodik signed controversial legislation that refused to recognise decisions made by Bosnia’s international high representative Christian Schmidt and the constitutional court.
The high representative is charged with overseeing the enforcement of the Dayton Agreement that succeeded in ending the country’s bloody civil war in the 1990s.
In July, Schmidt struck down both laws passed by Dodik, which the Bosnian leader went on to sign in defiance.
The trial marks the first time a political leader in Bosnia has been tried for failing to comply with decisions handed down by the country’s international envoy.
Dodik attended Wednesday’s brief proceedings, where he immediately demanded the trial be transferred to Banja Luka — the capital of Bosnia’s Serbia entity, Republika Srpska (RS).
The trial was then adjourned, pending a ruling on the future location of the proceedings.
As he exited the courthouse, Dodik lambasted Schmidt and the US ambassador to Bosnia Michael Murphy for their “colonial behaviour” during a post-trial tirade.
“The stinker named Christian Schmidt and the jerk named Murphy are trying to make life miserable in Bosnia,” said Dodik.
– Dodik denies wrongdoing –
Dodik faces up to five years in prison and a ban on participating in politics if convicted.
However, questions remain over whether Dodik will recognise an eventual verdict made by the court or if the international envoy would be willing to take a harder line against the Bosnian Serb leader for failing to recognise the ruling.
The international envoy holds vast powers under the country’s peace agreements, including the ability to effectively fire a political leader and strip them of power.
The 64-year-old president of Bosnia’s Serb entity has repeatedly batted away accusations of wrongdoing in the case, denouncing the allegations as political persecution.
Dodik has also refused to recognise Schmidt’s authority, since the position lost the backing of the United Nations due to intervention by Russia and Beijing.
Bosnia has been governed by the dysfunctional administrative system created under the Dayton pact by being divided into two bodies: a Muslim-Croat federation and RS which are connected by a weak central government.
The two entities are guaranteed a large degree of autonomy.
Dodik — a Kremlin ally under US sanctions – has held enormous sway over RS for years and has frequently stoked ethnic tensions and threatened to secede.
Over the course of his career, Dodik has served multiple stints as prime minister and as president of RS along with a term as the co-president of Bosnia.
Since being indicted, Dodik has continued to ramp up tensions in the country with calls for RS’s secession from Bosnia.
Last month, Dodik declared that Bosnia’s fate would be sealed by a “peaceful separation”.
“The process has begun,” he said. “The train has left the station and there’s no turning back, it’s definitive.”
© Agence France-Presse