UN representative imposes a ban on genocide denial in Bosnia

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The UN High Representative in Bosnia on Friday used his discretionary powers to ban genocide denial in the country, in a move widely thought aimed at the Srebrenica massacre and immediately contested by the Serbian member of the presidency.

Austrian diplomat Valentin Inzko made the decision a week before handing over his position to German colleague Christian Schmidt, whose nomination is contested by Russia and China.

The UN High Representative in Bosnia is tasked with ensuring compliance with the Dayton peace agreement, which ended the bloody inter-communal conflict in the 1990s, but the position also holds various executive powers.

Inzko added several amendments to the Bosnian Criminal Code, including providing penalties of between six months and five years in prison for those who “publicly approve, deny, grossly minimise or attempt to justify the crime of genocide, crime against humanity and war crime,” according to a document published on the website of the Office of the High Representative.

The move is widely thought to be aimed at the 1995 Srebenica massacre, which was deemed genocide by various verdicts of both International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Serb leaders in Bosnia and Serbia, however, usually deny the massacre amounted to a genocide, instead calling it a “great crime.”

The Serb member of Bosnia’s tri-member presidency Milorad Dodik immediately slammed Inzko’s move, saying the High Representative had “no right to do this”.

“It is a decision without legal basis (…) genocide did not take place in Srebrenica,” Dodik said at a press conference called immediately after the decision was announced.

In July 1995, a few months before the end of the war which left some 100,000 dead, Serb forces rounded up and killed more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys after they captured the town of Srebrenica.