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16 September 2015
News

Bosnian Serbs Withdraw Benefits Law for Wartime Officials

Denis Džidić BIRN BiH Sarajevo

A draft law that would have provided benefits to wartime Bosnian Serb politicians including several convicted war criminals and Hague Tribunal defendant Radovan Karadzic has been withdrawn.

Milorad Dodik, the president of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska, withdrew from parliament on Wednesday the draft legislation which would have granted benefits to the entity’s founders, senior officials and MPs who held office between 1991 and 1996, including Karadzic.

Dodik said that the law was withdrawn because “unprincipled” opposition.

“The beneficiaries of this law adopted our constitution, which stands to this day. This law is a minimal contribution for the service of people who built everything we have today,” said Dodik.

“However, I realised that the public was divided on this matter and that wasn’t my goal. This polarisation indicates that values in our society have degraded,” he added.

According to media reports, around 100 army veterans and disgruntled citizens protested against the legislation in front of the Bosnian Serb parliament in Banja Luka.

The protestors argued that the legislation would cost appropriate 1.2 million euros annually, much more than army veterans’ pensions.

The law on benefits for Bosnian Serb elected representatives between 1991 and 1996 would have ensured payments to Momcilo Krajisnik, Radovan Brdjanin and Biljana Plavsic, who were sentenced to a total of 61 years of prison for war crimes, as well as Hague Tribunal indictee Karadzic.

The withdrawn draft said that the president, vice-presidents and MPs would be entitled to benefits amounting to one-and-a-half times their average monthly salary, which is about 610 euros.

However Dodik said that he will soon start “wide-ranging public discussion about this law”, and that he expects that the draft will be put back on the parliamentary agenda again.

“The law takes care of people who created a framework for Republika Srpska before the war, just to be tortured by the international community,” he said.

Dodik also said that adoption of the law would be important in order to “finally establish that Republika Srpska was not created during the war, but before the war”.

During the war, Karadzic was the president of Republika Srpska, Plavsic was vice-president, Krajisnik was the head of parliament and Brdjanin was an MP.

Karadzic is currently awaiting the verdict of The Hague Tribunal on charges of comitting genocide in Srebrenica and seven other municipalities, terrorising the population of Sarajevo and taking UN peacekeepers hostage.

Plavsic and Krajisnik have both been given early release while Brdjanin is still serving his sentence in Denmark.

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