The right of Kosovo is quite unlike that of Republika Srpska

Author: Inoslav Bešker
Uploaded: Wednesday, 28 July, 2010

Rebuttal of the idea put about by Milorad Dodik and others that the ICJ ruling on Kosova's declaration of independence provides some kind of precedent for RS

As was to be expected, the RS leader Milorad Dodik did not miss the opportunity to provoke following the International Court of Justice’s verdict on Kosovo’s declaration of independence. In an interview with the daily Dani, he ‘warned’ that the ICJ decision ‘opens up the hypothetical possibility that RS will follow the example of the Kosovo Albanians’. He did add that ‘this will be considered only after the all-Bosnian and RS elections’ in three months’ time, but in politics this is not a very far-off date.


The question of the separation of RS is thus once again on the agenda. But the right of Kosovo is quite unlike that of the RS.


It was only in the 1912-1944 period that Kosovo did not enjoy formal autonomy. Before 1912 it was an Ottoman vilayet, after 1944 - and until the dissolution of Yugoslavia - an autonomous entity: a sub-federal unit up to 1974, and afterwards a de facto confederal unit within a de facto Yugoslav confederation. When Serbia suppressed its autonomy by force, Kosovo responded by proclaiming itself independent, helped along the way by the international community.


By contrast, the territory of the present-day RS was for centuries an integral part of Bosnia, constituted at various times as a kingdom, a sandžak, an eyalet, an administrative unit, or a republic (with a brief intermission from1931 to 1941 created by the existence of the Jajce and Vrbas banovine, whose borders differed, however, from those of RS, and which furthermore were not ethnically constituted). This situation lasted until the Dayton agreement of 1995, the aim of which was to end the war not to create new borders.


There is also a key difference in the sphere of basic human rights and collective rights, which dictated Kosovo’s right to independence and which would deny such a right to RS, with its autonomy imposed by the compromise enshrined in the Dayton agreement. The legitimacy of Kosovo’s claim to independence derives less from its historical separateness then from the fact that its Albanian population was exposed to ‘ethnic cleansing’ close to genocide, by which Serbia tried to secure the territory for itself.


By contrast, RS came into being precisely as a result not just of ‘ethnic cleansing’, but also of juridically established genocide, for which key RS leaders were charged, such as its elected president, Radovan Karadžic (now on trial in The Hague), its military commander-in chief, Ratko Mladic (a cowardly fugitive from justice), its vice-president Biljana Plavšic (found guilty), etc.

It is cynical and deeply wrong to equate the legitimacy of the victims (the Kosovo Albanians) with the legitimacy of the perpetrators of genocide (the Bosnian Serb para-state). At a certain historical moment, in violation of justice, the entity of RS was awarded for its crime with autonomy, and on a territory far greater than the proportion of the Serb population in Bosnia-Herzegovina warranted. To increase the award would only encourage others to commit genocide.

Translated from the daily

Jutarnji list, Zagreb, 26 July 2009.


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