The International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) from Ljubljana, Slovenia, regularly analyzes developments in the Middle East, the Balkans and around the world. In the context of the current developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the increasing likelihood of armed conflicts, IFIMES made an analysis of the current situation in the country. We bring the most important and interesting parts of the extensive analysis titled “2022 Bosnia and Herzegovina: From ‘non-paper’ to a crawling war.”
From “non-paper” to crawling war
The political crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina is not a consequence of the decision by the then High Representative in BiH (OHR) Valentin Inzko on amendments to the BiH Criminal Law criminalizing and sanctioning negation of genocide but a result of carefully and long planned activities primarily by the Serb Member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Milorad Dodik (SNSD) and the President of the Croatian Democratic Union Dragan Čović (HDZBiH), aimed at dissolution of the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. For the purposes of fulfillment of their goal, through the European People’s Party (EPP) and radical right-wing political circles in Europe and by using substantial funds originating from crime and corruption, they established contacts and ensured support and assistance of neighboring countries. It is expected that the current High Representative in BiH Christian Schmidt will adopt a decision banning persons convicted for war crimes and crime of genocide to engage in public life and stripping them of their civic rights (ban to run and vote in elections) which would prevent from holding a public office and being present in public life. Such a decision would lower the tensions in BiH and stop further humiliation and insults of the victims of war.
Russian military threats to Russia, which can escalate into a military conflict, are a reflection of the current political situation in the EU, where under the patronage of the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (Fidesz) and with the assistance of Russia, we witness gathering of political-criminal structures (predominantly) of right-wing political orientation, including pro-fascist groups from Austria, Italy, Spain, Poland, France, Netherlands, Slovenia, Croatia, which are in the function of Russian interests and act as a politico-criminal L’Internationale movement.
The aim of the listed political circles is establishment of a new world order that is to their measure. They call themselves the “sovereigntists”, who are allegedly opposing the “globalists”. Essentially, these are politico-criminal structures that abuse ethnic, religious, religious, civilization and other sentiments of citizens in pursuit of their goals and interests. The arrival of the new US President Joseph Biden (D) and the new German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) to power inflicted a serious blow to the listed political circles, their intentions and interests.
The finale of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina – last chance for retailoring of borders
Although the architecture of borders in the region was completed with the declaration of independence of Kosovo, the final phase of the dialogue between the official Belgrade and Pristina is the last chance for a part of political circles who advocate retailoring of borders in the region. In fact, for that purpose the “non-papers”, attributable to Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša (SDS/EPP), were released to public with a specific goal. In the region, the attacks are directed at Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia. In North Macedonia, intelligence operation “Rösselsprung”/Knight’s move/is underway. The aim of the operation is to topple the legal government headed by Zoran Zaev (SDSM) and bring to power Nikola Gruevski (VMRO-DPMNE), who enjoys the protection of Viktor Orban and has found refuge in Budapest.
The “Rösselsprung” intelligence operation was thwarted and prevent at the last moment by an adroitly implemented maneuver by Macedonian patriotic forces, as after the resignation by Zoran Zaev a new government, also headed by the SDSM, was established and is led by Prime Minister Dimitar Kovačevski. In Bosnia and Herzegovina an intelligence operation code-named “Kula” is currently underway. This operation is also coordinated from Budapest.
Federation of BiH – backbone of the economic system of the state
The Federation of BiH (51% of the territory of BiH) is where ¾ of economic transactions in Bosnia and Herzegovina takes place. Therefore, the Federation of BiH is the backbone of the economic system in the state of BiH. In fact, last year, in the period of the Corona crisis, the FBiH recorded a surplus of 120 million BAM (60 million EUR). Through the criminal and illegal distribution of revenues in the Indirect Taxation Authority, which is managed by HDZBiH on behalf of the FBiH and the state, more than 800 million BAM (400 million EUR) are unfoundedly and illegally paid annually to the entity of Republika Srpska, to the detriment of the Federation of BiH. A part of this amount is used, inter alia, for corrupting foreign officials, who act against BiH and its citizens (and business entities), which as taxpayers and other payers are the ones that pay for this. Research had shown that 95% of EU officials working in relation with BiH are exposed to corruption, as well as that US diplomats are also not immune to it. Dragan Čović and the HDZBiH are blocking establishment of the new FBiH Government, that is implementation of the results from 2018 elections. Specifically, they condition establishment of the new FBiH Government with adoption of a new election law that is to their liking and in line with their wishes. This is a typical deliberate obstruction and destabilization (participation in the “Kula” intelligence operation), because it is clear to Čović that an election law to his liking and measure, which would guarantee his reelection as the Croat member of the BiH Presidency, cannot be adopted. Namely, constitutional changes would firstly need to be adopted, and they require not just the political will but also a period of at least a year. Prior to adoption of the agreed proposal of constitutional changes in the BiH Parliament it is necessary to obtain the opinion of the Venice Commission. Furthermore, an appeal can be filed with the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg regarding the offered constitutional solutions. Only once the constitutional changes are made, the new election law can be adopted. The OSCE advices the states not to modify their election legislation in an election year. According to the existing election law, Bosnia and Herzegovina is to announce the general elections by no later than the first half of May 2022. Namely, high risks of corruption have been detected in the actions by special envoys Matthew Palmer and Angelina Eichhorst, who are trying in the current atmosphere of war in BiH to achieve the goals and interests of Dragan Čović and the HDZBiH and adopt a new election law “overnight.” However, the patriotic political forces and professional public have opposed adoption of constitutional changes “overnight.”
Blocking of appointment of new judges of the FBiH Constitutional Court
According to the FBiH Constitution, the Constitutional Court is composed of nine judges. Currently, four positions of judges of the FBiH Constitutional Court are vacant. More than two years ago, the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC) had completed the hiring procedure for the four judges and now everything depends on the President and two Vice Presidents of the FBiH. However, FBiH President Marinko Čavara (HDZBiH) is obstructing the process using the same HDZBiH matrix as in other cases. Specifically, he refuses to sign the letters of appointment, despite the insisting by the two FBiH Vice Presidents (Melika Mahmutbegović and Milan Dunović). As a result, the FBiH Constitutional Court barely meets the quorum requirements.
At the same time, the FBiH Council for the Protection of National Vital Interest, whose members are elected among the appointed judges of the FBiH Constitutional Court, is incomplete and cannot function. This means that whenever two thirds of a caucus in the House of Peoples of the FBiH Parliament invoke protection of vital national interest and when the Council has to take a stance, in the regular procedure (when the Council was functioning) the respective law would be withdrawn from the agenda until the Council renders its decision on it.
Therefore, as long as the Council is not functioning, because of the deliberate obstruction by FBiH President Čavara, who is following HDZBiH’s instructions, any law for which the vital national interests is invoked cannot be returned on the agenda.
Analysts believe that in such a way the HDZBiH controls all the processes in the House of Peoples of the FBiH Parliament. One of the main goals of the HDZBiH and Dragan Čović is to prevent adoption of the legal framework for taxation of betting shops, which results in damages to the budget caused by such non-taxation. Prevention of appointment of judges is an integral part of the strategy of the HDZBiH for blocking of adoption of any law that they do not want to be adopted. Namely, that is why there is the “vital national interest of ‘bookies’.” The goal of the HDZ BiH is to damage the budget, that is avoid payments that should be paid to the FBiH budget, and not to HDZBiH leaders and their oligarchy.
“Kula” intelligence operation aims to destroy the state of BiH through “ventilators”
The staged “Ventilators” affair, which is a part of the “Kula” intelligence operation, has no true connection with the procurement of ventilators and is not the reason but the cause to process the FBiH Prime Minister Fadil Novalić, further weaken the FBiH Government and diminish the results it has achieved. The ultimate goal is toppling of the economic system of the FBiH, as a phase in the destruction of the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Furthermore, Novalić’s closest associates are being attacked, illegal tapped, threatened and pressured by prosecutors. Threats to employees in the cabinet of Prime Minister Novalić and similar activities constitute illegal actions by prosecutors and obstruction of justice. Intimidation and pressuring of his closest associates are of no surprise. Everything is being done deliberately with the aim of further weakening and isolating Prime Minister Novalić with the ultimate goal of his complete destruction. So far, they have not been successful in their aim.
One of the keys to destruction of BiH are also the attacks on the economic/monetary system of BiH. In example, the intelligence model used against Prime Minister Fadil Novalić is similar to the one that was used against Ante Marković, President of the Federal Executive Council (Government) of the SFRY or in the early stages with the creation of the Agrokomerc affair for the purposes of undermining the economic system of a state. BiH is a blocked state, whereas the executive, legislative and judicial branches of its government are in the hands of the negators of holocaust and genocide. Under such circumstances the FBiH Government is managing to keep BiH “alive”. Internet news portals are also being used within the framework of the “Kula” intelligence operation. In Bosnia and Herzegovina there are around 600 news portals. One third of them produces “fake news” and has dubious and untransparent founders and funding. The “Kula” operation is envisaged to cause inter-Bosniak conflict, as a prelude to an armed conflict in BiH.
Systemic obstruction of justice by prosecutors in BiH
The principle of a fair trial in criminal cases, which is guaranteed by the European Convention, is one of the fundamental principles of democratic societies based on the rule of law.
This principle is systemically abused by the prosecutors in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The public is familiar with the disciplinary proceedings initiated against chief prosecutors Gordana Tadić, Mahmut Švraka and Mirsad Bilajac, in relation to abuse of the automated assignment of cases to prosecutors (TCMS).
Systemic obstruction of justice by prosecutors in Bosnia and Herzegovina is implemented in at least two ways:
- The first way is that chief prosecutors in Bosnia and Herzegovina abuse the TCMS and instead of using the system for automated assignment of cases to prosecutors, they personally assign cases to the prosecutors that they deem “suitable” and obedient prosecutors.
- The second way of systemic obstruction of justice is that there is no electronic record of prosecution files.
If there was an electronic record of prosecution files, then the defense would be able right after the completion of investigation to learn from the list of documents what evidence had been obtained in the investigation. As a result, the prosecutors would not be able to withhold evidence from the defense.
In a situation in which there is no record of prosecution files, the prosecutors can disregard or even hide evidence that is in favor of the defense. This results in obstruction of justice, that is prevents establishment of truth before the court.
These two methods of abuse by prosecutors create an unlimited opportunity for staging of indictments, persecution on political basis, persecution on the basis of personal animosities towards the indicted, etc. All this can prevent establishment of the truth before court and lead to conviction of the innocent. The systemic obstruction of justice became apparent also in the case of the FBiH Prime Minister, “Fadil Novalić et al.”
The professional legal community has been aware for a long time already of the systemic obstruction of justice by prosecutors in BiH using, inter alia, the two above defined methods.
The obstruction of justice takes place almost on daily basis, because prosecutors hide or disregard evidence that is in favor of the defense.
Such systemic obstruction of justice takes place far away from the public eye. However, as the public is following developments in the “Novalić et al.” case, the obstruction of justice has come to light.
This imposes the question whether there is a legal basis for such obstruction of justice. Of course, there is not.
The principles of criminal procedure codes regulate that the prosecutor is obligated to provide evidence to the defense. Specifically, the evidence that is in favor of the defendant as well as the one that is to the detriment of the defendant. The criminal code defines also the criminal offense of obstruction of justice, that is criminal offense of “preventing presentation of evidence.”
If the criminal procedure and criminal codes protect against obstruction of justice, why do we then have systemic obstruction of justice. So far, in BiH, there has not been a single case in the judicial practice of a prosecutor in Bosnia and Herzegovina being held accountable for the criminal offense of preventing presentation of evidence.
There are several reasons for that. The justice is obstructed by prosecutors who withhold evidence. Of course, they will not investigate or prosecute themselves for obstruction of justice. The public is familiar with the report filed by witness Edita Kalajdžić regarding abuse of her seized mobile phone, which the prosecutors are trying to coverup by denying such activities.
Disciplinary Prosecutor of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC) almost regularly rejects reports regarding obstructions of justice under the pretext that it would violate independence of prosecutors. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the assigned judges regularly ignore obstructions of justice that take place in their courtroom. The judge has a duty to professionally file a criminal report for obstruction of justice against respective prosecutors. As a result of the above, we have impunity regarding obstruction of justice in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
What is the solution?
In the opinion of experts, there is no other solution but to note that the judicial reform based on Anglo-Saxon principles had failed. It is necessary to return to the principles on continental law in the criminal procedure legislation, as in Italy, France, etc.
If the continental criminal procedure legislation would be reintroduced, then there would be an investigating judge as an “impartial referee.”
The investigating judge would make a list of files and all the evidence collected in the course of the investigation that would be available to defense as well. This would further mean that it would be easier to establish the material truth in the trial, as well as that withholding of evidence and obstruction of justice would be rendered impossible.
In the current situation in courts in BiH, absence of fair trial has been recorded. Namely, the truth established in the criminal court is “dosed” by prosecutors, as they present in the courtroom only what suits them.
A specific problem in the obstruction of justice is the almost regular intimidation of witnesses during the investigation. An investigating judge as the “impartial referee” would definitely not engage in intimidation of witnesses.
All this can have far-reaching and serious consequences to the rule of law and democracy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, because the “dosing” of truth or withholding of evidence by prosecutors can lead to conviction of the innocent.
Analysts warn that the OSCE Mission in BIH, which monitors the trials, has not detected this as a problem for the rule of law in Bosnia and Herzegovina and undertaken appropriate actions.
Modification of “Kula” operation – causing inter-Bosniak conflict
In a charged atmosphere in BiH, in early December 2021 the miners took to the streets and the population always responds emotionally to such developments. The intent was to start a wave of violence for which the Bosniak political factor would be accused and initiate a conflict in such a way. A part of the actors in Sarajevo were unwittingly drawn into the “Kula” intelligence operation, while another part, which includes individuals from the judicial system, and particularly the prosecutors, wittingly got involved and was awarded for their contribution.
As this part of the “Kula” intelligence operation was exposed, the “Kula” intelligence operation had to be modified. Namely, in the coming period there will be an emergence of conflicts on the territory of the Una-Sana Canton (USK), which is a predominantly Bosniak canton. The situation is already being destabilized through initiation of strikes, political instability in cantonal authorities, strengthening of Fikret Abdić’s “autonomists.” Such activities will intensify in the coming period. In fact, the planned directing of migrants from the Middle East to this canton is a part of these activities. The goal is to start again an armed conflict among Bosniaks in the area, which dates back from 1993, so that the Bosniak political factor (and not Serb and/or Croat political factor) could be accused for the beginning of armed conflict. In such a way, Bosnia and Herzegovina would be presented as unsustainable, as such a development would show that in BiH even the Bosniaks are in conflict among themselves.
Analysts believe that the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Federation of BiH, as well as international military forces, have to instensify their presence and engagement on the territory of the Una- Sana Canton in order to act preemptively to prevent an inter-Bosniak (armed) conflict.
Brčko District neuralgic spot for conflicts in BiH
Security threats have been detected in the demilitarized area of the BiH Brčko District, a self-governing administrative unit under the sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The threats are related to disrespect of Article 7, Statute of the BiH Brčko District, Article 1 in reference to Article 77, Statute of the BiH Brčko District, and Item 13, Final Arbitration Award for the BiH Brčko District BiH, specifically the Annex of 18 August 1999. Brčko District Supervisor Michael Scanlan and OHR representatives have also been informed about the transit of armored vehicles, special purpose vehicles and police officers of the Republika Srpska Ministry of Internal Affairs (MUPRS) carrying long guns and ammunition without previous announcement of transit through the territory of the District. Furthermore, an unannounced transport of weapons across the territory of the District was also recorded, as well as illegal arming of citizens and presence of paramilitary units. Supervisor Scanlan is responsible also for the military aspect of implementation of the Final Arbitration Award, but has not responded with removal of the head of the Police of the District Goran Pisić, who had covered up both the military transport and the arming of Serbs in Brčko. The Mayor of the Brčko District Esed Kadrićalso made a number of omissions, as he had failed to undertake appropriate measures, as well as did not remove the head of the Police Pisić. Supervisor Scanlan sends reports about the situation in the Brčko District that are not credible and do not reflect the true situation on the ground. In such a way he prevents arrival and deployment of US military forces as a form of preemptive action on prevention of an armed conflict. Furthermore, Mayor Kadrić’s statements create a false image about the satisfactory security situation in the Brčko District, which has become the most neuralgic spot for the outbreak of an armed conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Article 1, paragraph 4 of the Statute of the Brčko District regulates “The Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as relevant laws and decisions of the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, are directly applicable throughout the territory of the District. The laws and decisions of all District authorities must be in conformity with the relevant laws and decisions of the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Hence, the judgement by the BiH Constitutional Court that the marking of 9 January as the Republika Srpska Day was not in line with the constitution, must be respected in the District. Therefore, Supervisor Scanlan is responsible for allowing the marking of the unconstitutional Republika Srpska Day in the District, that is for not taking appropriate measures that he as the Supervisor has at his disposal.
Such incidents and practices have to be stopped, and the responsible have to be sanctioned. The Protocol on transit of military and police formations and assets through the demilitarized territory of the District has not been applied, nor had the Final Arbitration Award for BiH Brčko District and its annexes.
Analysts believe that Republika Srpska intends to send to the BiH Brčko District a light police brigade with around 1,000 special police officers, which would hermetically close the territory and provide for establishment of a corridor between the eastern and western part of Republika Srpska. Supervisor Scanlan acts as a lobbyist of Milorad Dodik and the SNSD. Hence, it is required to introduce supervision over the work of Supervisor Scanlan. Instead of removing the Head of the District Police Goran Pisić, “Supervisor commended the work of the Brčko police the past few months as an example of professionalism and commitment to serve the community that all officials in the District should emulate.”
Elimination of US and its influence in resolution of the situation in BiH
Serb member of the BiH Presidency Milorad Dodik stated: “The future of BiH is in a dialogue among local politician in the Erdogan, Vučić and Milanović constellation.” The unvoiced part of the statement that this is to be done “in cooperation with Russia” is implied. Dodik supports the initiative of the Turkish and Serbian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Aleksandar Vučić, which was earlier presented also by the Croatian President Zoran Milanović, according to which they should mediate the resolution of the existing situation in BiH among Bosniaks; Serbs and Croats. Dodik believes that any other interference in developments in BiH would not yield anything good.
Analysts believe that the initiative to have Serbia, Croatia and Turkey, in coordination with Russia, resolve the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is an attempt to eliminate the influence of the US as the key country for ensuring peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region. This is a perfidious attempt to institutionally bring Russia and Turkey with a bang to Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region. Turkey is a member of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) and it should coordinate its activities with other PIC members. Without such coordination Turkey risks of being pulled into very dangerous activities on retailoring of borders on the Balkans. The intentions of this initiative were immediately thwarted, while the President of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) Bakir Izetbegović made a strategic mistake when he recently met with the Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković (HDZ) and thus legitimated him as an actor in the process of resolution of the situation in BiH. What would happen if Bosnia and Herzegovina would get involved in the process of adoption of an election law in Croatia, as Croatia has gotten actively involved in the adoption of the election law in BiH and alarmed the EU and international community about this internal political issue of BiH.
The “Kula” intelligence operation has been exposed and it has become clear who is behind it. The Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban did not cancel his announced visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina because of the pandemic of the coronavirus but because of the exposure of the “Kula” intelligence operation and his role in it, as well as because of the fact that the International Criminal Court (ICC) had opened a case on BiH and is working on prevention of conflict and recording of all those who through their actions instigate a possible armed conflict in BiH and new sufferings that could result from it. The ICC had sent a clear warning to all working on dissolution of BiH, from distribution of various “non-papers” to instigating of an armed conflict, that they could share the fate of Slobodan Milošević, Radovan Karadžić, Ratko Mladić and others who have been processed and convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The BiH Office of the Prosecutor has an obligation to initiate proceedings ex officio against local and foreign officials who work on dissolution of Bosnia and Herzegovina and who through their actions instigate armed conflict and undermine peace and stability, that is act in an unconstitutional and illegal manner.
Analysts warn of the difficult security and political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the fact that the key security threats to Bosnia and Herzegovina are not coming just from Russia but also from EU and NATO members, such as Croatia, Hungary, Slovenia, Poland and some other countries. These facts are a serious issue for EU and NATO leadership about the role of their members in instigation of a war conflict in BiH. The fact that the situation in Europe is complex and intertwined with polycentric interests and centers of powers implies that a possible war conflict in BiH would not be a local or regional conflict but would affect a large part of Europe. As history is the teacher of life, it should not be forgotten that World War I actually started in the capital of BiH, Sarajevo. If the destructive activities are not stopped, BiH will quickly move from “non-papers” to a “crawling war “, and all the involved, if their responsibility is established, could be sanctioned. Bosnia and Herzegovina would not have been brought to the current situation had the judicial institutions responded in an appropriate and timely manner against all those who violate the constitution and the law, that is undermine peace and stability in the country.