Bosnian Serbs reject imposed ban on genocide denial

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Bosnian Serbs on Friday rejected a ban on genocide denial imposed by the outgoing UN high representative and passed a law under which those who call their entity "genocidal" risk lengthy jail terms.

A week before the end of his mandate, Austrian diplomat and UN High Representative Valentin Inzko on July 23 used his powers to impose the genocide-denial ban, angering Bosnian Serbs leaders.

The UN official in Bosnia holds certain executive powers in the Balkan country that was the scene of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, the worst atrocity on European soil since World War II.

The massacre happened in July 1995, a few months before the end of the war that left about 100,000 dead, when Serb forces rounded up and killed more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys after they captured the town.

The Srebrenica massacre was deemed genocide by several verdicts of international courts, but Serb leaders usually deny it amounted to genocide, instead calling it a "great crime".

In the past, some Bosnian Muslim leaders have described the Bosnian Serb entity as a "genocidal construction".

On Friday, the parliament of the Serb entity, Republika Srpska (RS), passed a law on "non-implementation" of the high representative's decision and another providing for penalties of up to 15 years in prison for "violating the reputation of the Republika Srpska".

"We will never again allow anyone to call us 'genocidal'... and to humiliate us," President of the RS Parliament Nedeljko Cubrilovic told the media after the vote.

The political leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Milorad Dodik, reiterated his stance that "there was no genocide" in Srebrenica.

Last week, 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".

Inzko, who was been high commissioner in Bosnia for 12 years, will hand over the seat on Sunday to Christian Schmidt.

The UN Peace Implementation Council appointed the former German agriculture minister as Inzko's replacement, but the decision has been challenged by Russia and China, which believe it should have been approved by the UN Security Council.