Bosnia's law against genocide denial compatible with EU values, directives

Amendment to law was reaction to monstrous campaign of insulting victims, glorifying criminals, says Sefik Dzaferovic.

Bosnia's law against genocide denial compatible with EU values, directives

Sefik Dzaferovic, the Bosniak member of the tripartite presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIH), has said that a recent law in the Balkan nation banning the denial of genocide and glorification of war criminals is "identical in its content to EU directives on the fight against hate speech."

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Dzaferovic said Valentin Inzko, former high representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina, declared the law as "a reaction to a monstrous campaign of insulting victims, denying crimes and glorifying criminals."

Bosnia-Herzegovina is currently embroiled in a political conflict between Bosniaks and Serbs living in the country.

The dispute erupted after Inzko amended the criminal code in July to ban the denial of genocide and the glorification of war criminals.

In response, Bosnian Serb lawmakers said that they would boycott the country's institutions.

Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of the presidential council, denounced the amendments and pushed for the controversial moves in the Republika Srpska (RS) parliament.

Republika Srpska is one of the two entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the other being the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Allegations

Noting that RS entity officials claim the way the law passed was the problem, Dzaferovic said: "Allegedly, it was supposed to be passed by the BiH state authorities, not the High Representative."

"Anyone who is familiar with the situation in BiH knows that this is an insincere claim," he said while stressing that the Bosnian parliament has been trying to pass this law for more than 10 years, but was blocked by RS entity officials each time, "precisely because they are against the content of the law."

"Given the allegations from RS that they do not have a problem with the content of the law, the international community has launched an initiative to adopt this law in Parliament. (EU) High Representative Christian Schmidt personally called for that, saying that he would withdraw Inzko's law if the parliament adopts the same law," he added.

Underscoring that the Republika Srpska officials "only want to repeal Inzko's law," the Bosniak official noted that "If there is no problem with the content, RS parliamentarians should now vote in the BiH Parliament for a law with the same content, but they now reject that too."

Dzaferovic further said the law was a result of a "monstrous campaign of insulting victims, denying crimes and glorifying criminals," as the Republika Srpska entity "began using public money to fund the glorification of war criminals, which is hate speech."

"It should not be forgotten that the Hague Tribunal in its verdicts defined hate speech as one of the factors that led to the crimes. That is why it is of the utmost importance for peacekeeping to prevent such incitement to hate speech," he added.

Saying that denial of genocide law "is identical in its content to EU directives on the fight against hate speech," Dzaferovic said it is "in line with the Stockholm Program, adopted by the EU Council in 2009, which clearly states that EU values are incompatible with genocide, crimes against humanity and other war crimes."

"Finally, the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights have ruled that genocide denial cannot be defined as freedom of speech. So there is no instance that can or should challenge this law," he said.

Reduction in denial of crime

Furthermore, the Mothers of Srebrenica and the Association of Witnesses and Survivors of Genocide in a joint statement said they have been following the appearance of genocide denial in the print and electronic media, and social networks from Sept. 1 to Nov. 31 2021.

"The number of denials of genocide, holocaust and other crimes in the print media in the observed period decreased by almost 100%, in electronic media by about 80%, while on social networks it decreased by about 50%," a statement said.

Noting that the denial of crimes in the months of September, October, and November decreased by 80% on average compared to the period before the law was passed, the statement said: "The law itself paid off and denial was drastically reduced."

"Why would something change that gave the result? We have nothing against the BiH Parliament adopting the aforementioned amendments to the BiH CC, but we cannot accept anything that would again enable insults and belittling of victims," it added.

Hüseyin Demir

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