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'Absurd': Dodik Rails Against Prosecutions Over Republika Srpska Day Referendum

© REUTERS / Dado RuvicMilorad Dodik, President of Republika Srpska is pictured on an election poster calling for votes for a referendum on their Statehood Day in Prnjavor, Bosnia and Herzegovina, September 21, 2016
Milorad Dodik, President of Republika Srpska is pictured on an election poster calling for votes for a referendum on their Statehood Day in Prnjavor, Bosnia and Herzegovina, September 21, 2016 - Sputnik International
The charges brought against Bosnian Serb officials for allegedly breaching a Constitutional Court ruling that forbade last year's referendum on "Day of Republika Srpska" are an attempt to put political pressure on Republika Srpska, President Milorad Dodik said.

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Republika Srpska (RS) President Milorad Dodik has criticized prosecutors in Bosnia and Hercegovina for pressing charges against some officials in Banja Luka who were responsible for carrying out last year's referendum on making Day of Republika Srpska into a national holiday.

The January 9 holiday commemorates the day that Republika Srpska, one of two self-governing entities that make up the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, was founded in 1992.

On Thursday, the Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo announced that it is bringing charges against four members of the RS commission for conducting the referendum, which was held in spite of a ruling by the Bosnia and Herzegovina Constitutional Court.

Dodik told the local RTRS broadcaster that the decision to press charges against the four commission members is "absurd."

"It's unbelievable, it shows the absurdity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This absurdity is connected to the fact that the court and prosecutor's office was created by the 'international community' together with the Bosniaks. These are ways of using unconstitutional means which contravene the Dayton Agreement to exert legal and political pressure on us in Republika Srpska and that is what has happened here," Dodik said.

Dodik stressed that charging the four individuals is unfair, given that the National Assembly in Banja Luka took the democratic decision to hold the referendum.

"It is unbelievable that first of all there was an investigation and then that somebody was charged. This distinction that they have made is illogical. You have a lot of people who participated in it, much more than those who have been charged. They have made up their own reasons for charging those four people and not the other members of the committee, allegedly because of (parliamentary) immunity. That means that our mistake was that not all of them were MP's, and then we would not have had a problem," Dodik said.

In the referendum held on September 25, 99.81 percent of voters in Republika Srpska supported an initiative to make Day of Republika Srpska on January 9 a state holiday.

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While January 9 is celebrated as a public holiday in Republika Srpska, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the other entity which constitutes Bosnia and Herzegovina, does not celebrate January 9. It celebrates March 1, 1992, the day when it declared independence from Yugoslavia, but this day is not celebrated in Republika Srpska.

The referendum was a challenge to the authority of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Constitutional Court, which had struck down the state holiday as unconstitutional in November 2015. 

The case was brought by the Bosnjak member of the tripartite presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bakir Izetbegovic and some members of the parliament of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Republika Srpska unsuccessfully appealed the Constitutional Court's decision and the National Assembly in Banja Luka voted on July 15 2016 to hold a referendum on the issue, in spite of the court ruling.

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