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Bosnia’s international official suspends Serb property law

April 12, 2022 GMT

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — The top international official in Bosnia on Tuesday suspended a Bosnian Serb property law that is seen as part of a separatist drive by Bosnian Serbs.

Christian Schmidt, who heads the U.N. Office of High Representative in Bosnia, says that the law passed in February in the Bosnian Serb assembly was unconstitutional.

Bosnian Serbs have refused to withdraw the law and top Serb politician Milorad Dodik said Tuesday he does not accept Schmidt’s decision.

The legislation seeks to transfer ownership of public property to the Serb-run entity called Republika Srpska, rather than the Bosnian federal state.

Bosnia’s government consists of two entities — one run by Bosnian Serbs and the other by Bosniaks and Croats — established in a U.S.-brokered peace agreement that ended the 1992-95 ethnic war. The two semi-autonomous regions are bound together by joint central institutions.

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Dodik, a pro-Russia politician who’s the Serb member of Bosnia’s multi-ethnic presidency, has repeatedly called for the separation of the Serb entity from the rest of Bosnia.

Britain slapped Dodik and Bosnian Serb President Zeljka Cvijanovic with sanctions on Monday for undermining peace in the Balkan nation. Dodik already has faced U.S. sanctions earlier this year.

He remained defiant on Tuesday, saying that “the property of Republika Srpska remains the property of Republika Srpska.”

Schmidt said that his decision “makes it clear that only the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina can dispose of state property or regulate property.”

The Dayton peace accord envisages that joint decisions in Bosnia are reached by consensus of its ethnic groups. The U.N. High Representative has the authority to suspend laws and officials viewed as violating the peace deal.

The issue of ownership and division of the state property has remained unsolved for years amid disagreements between Bosnian politicians.

Bosnia’s war killed more than 100,000 people and left millions homeless.