News about Bosnia’s Serb-majority region intending to establish a reserve police unit has sparked concern among a large number of Bosniaks, most of those who have returned there after they fled their homes or were expelled from them during the 1992-1995 war.
The Government of the semi-autonomous Serb-majority part of Bosnia, Republika Srpska (RS), adopted last week a draft of changes to the law on police which introduced a reserve police unit in the entity. The draft was sent to the RS National Assembly for adoption.
RS Interior Minister, Dragan Lukac, said on Saturday that the unit would be composed of young people who would be summoned only when necessary and would have the same competencies as active police officers engaged in police duties.
According to the Bosniak Vice President of Republika Srpska, Ramiz Salkic, this was part of a plan to “turn police forces on the territory of the RS into some kind of an armed force that could be used or abused.”
“Such a structure should provide confidence for policies which advocate separatism,” he said, reminding that Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, who has been advocating Serb secession from Bosnia and the annexation of Serb-controlled Bosnian territories to neighbouring Serbia for years, has recently said that he only needs 24 hours to send the police to the entity border and finish the job.
Former prison camp inmates are also worried by the “strengthening of the Chetnik Ravna Gora movement, the glorifying of war criminals, the denial of the genocide,” said the head of the Association of former prison camp inmates, Jasmin Meskovic.
The announcement that an additional police unit could be created in the RS is only another reason for concern, he said.
“Of course it causes additional fear and insecurity and in all of that we expect reactions from competent bodies, Bosnia’s institutions,” he said, adding that state institutions need to be informed on whether such a unit is truly necessary and what it would do.
According to a former official in the pre-war Interior Ministry of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Avdo Hebib, the problem is not in the existence of another police unit in itself, but that it would have the same powers as the police now.
“That is something completely different; it is the maximum increase of the number of police officers, which is against the agreed upon Dayton Peace Agreement (which ended Bosnia’s war in 1995) regarding the number of officers and the structure of the police and the security system,” Hebib said.
Experts told N1 the problem also lies with Bosnia’s institutions and the international community, who are not paying enough attention to the issue.
“It is interesting that Bosnia’s Prosecutor’s Office is not reacting to anti-constitutional activities at all,” said Emir Zlatar, from the Council of the Congress of Bosniak Intellectuals (VKBI).
The forming of reserve units and the arming of the special police are all parts of the attempt to create a new "Serb state in the Balkans," he said.
The Bosniak member of the country's tripartite Presidency, Sefik Dzaferovic, recently told N1 that establishing a reserve police unit would breach Annexe 1b of the Dayton Peace Agreement, which entails balance of military strength in the region.
Dodik, the Bosnian Serb member, praised the police unit.
“We will do everything to provide additional equipment, to arm it and enable it to become a visible and perhaps decisive factor in the fight against terrorism but also in the maintenance of freedom and the RS itself,” he said after he attended a police exercise near Banja Luka along with the Serbian ministers of defence and interior.