“Referendum day” case officially closed

“Referendum day” case officially closed

BiH Court decision last week marked the end of the legal case where several persons were accused of the organization and implementation of the referendum in RS. The referendum was held in late September 2016 regarding the celebration of January 9, as RS Day.

The events were triggered with BiH Constitutional Court’s decision that January 9 cannot be the RS Day since it doesn’t mirror the interests of all constitutional nations in BiH and RS. Bosniak member of BiH Presidency and Party of Democratic Action (SDA), Bakir Izetbegovic, who initiated the discussion in Constitutional Court, said at the time that he is satisfied with the decision and that it means that every person who celebrates January 9 will break the Court decision, and be punished for that.

However, something unusual happened. RS President, Milorad Dodik, suggested to the RS National Assembly to adopt the decision of the referendum in RS to hear the “voice of the people”. Results were as expected –  the majority of RS citizens said that they want to continue to celebrate RS Day, despite the Constitutional Court’s decision. The Constitutional Court said that the referendum is illegal and not in accordance with previous decisions, since it is about a matter which had already been decided. RS NA decided this issue and it was a legal manner to open the way for RS officials to organize the biggest RS Day celebration in history.

Legally, it is not clear who broke the Constitutional Court decision and who should be punished. Dodik just suggested the decision on the referendum, RS National Assembly adopted the decision and Referendum Commission members were not able to change the RS NA decisions and were obliged to implement them.

The BiH Prosecution Office had a hard task to decide whom to indict for the violation of the Constitutional Court decision. First on the list were names of RS president, Milorad Dodik, RS PM, Zeljka Cvijanovic, and RS NA speaker, Nedeljko Cubrilovic. Afterwards, accusations were leveled against members of the Referendum Commission Sinisa Karan (photo), Dragoljub Reljic, Goran Zmijanac and Milan Petkovic. But, prosecutors were not able to indict the highest officials and chose to fill the indictment against Sinisa Karan and members of the Commission. They, as Prosecution Office noted in the indictment, were responsible  for the failure to execute the decision of the BiH Constitutional Court to provisionally ban the execution of the decision to call a referendum on January 9.

On the big surprise of many in the state, BiH Court judge refused to confirm the accusation. The reason was that from the evidence submitted with the document it was not visible how Karan and others were able to change or on any other way have influence on the decision brought by RS National Assembly. BiH Prosecution office appealed the judge’s decision, but it was also rejected. As such, the case is now officialy closed.

After the decision, Karan said that it is the only possible and rarely right decision of this Court. Karan added that the BiH Prosecutor’s Office is an unconstitutional institution, that it is under huge political pressure and that it is making political decisions, which is terrible for any state, particularly BiH.

“The legitimacy, legality and constitutionality of a referendum is confirmed in the Republika Srpska Constitution, the law on civil initiative and in a legal and democratic decision the citizens expressed in the referendum”, Karan said, emphasizing that BiH Prosecution office violate the constitutional and legal order and the rule of law. Other RS officials agree that this was the only possible decision and that it represents a defeat of the “Sarajevo politics”, meaning that this is the defeat of Bakir Izetbegovic and Bosniak influence on the BiH judiciary institutions.

Analyst agree that this decision represents a precedent in judicial praxis in BiH and that, in some manner, opened the door for more referendums about more serious questions./IBNA