Russia asks UN to Control International Judges in Bosnia

Moscow will ask the United Nations to control the work of international judges and prosecutores who are handling war crimes cases at Bosnia’s State Court after their mandate was recently extended by the top international envoy in the Balkan country.

“Russia believes that the work of international jurists has to be controlled directly by the (UN war crimes) tribunal in The Hague and by the United Nations to ensure that they will not be biased against anyone,” Russian ambassador to Bosnia Alaxender Botsan-Kharchenko said on Friday.

“We are extremely concerned because of the recently surfaced evidence that these people [international judges and prosecutors] are not unbiased,” he added, without elaborating.

Botsan-Kharchenko spoke after a meeting in Banja Luka with Igor Radojicic, the speaker of the parliament of Bosnia’s Serb dominated entity Republika Srpska.

The mandate of foreign war crimes judges and prosecutors at Bosnia’s State Court, which was to expire at the end of the year, was extended on Monday by the international community’s High Representative to Bosnia, Valentin Inzko.

Inzko’s decision was unanimously supported by the Peace Implementation Council, PIC, comprising 55 countries and international organisations, including Russia, that sponsor and direct the peace process in Bosnia.

Botsan-Kharchenko said that Russia was “not happy” that Inzko had used his far-reaching powers, but that it did not oppose it because war crimes processing is part of Bosnia’s international obligations.

International judges and prosecutors were brought in to help Bosnia’s State Court when it was opened in 2002 and their presence is seen as a guarantee of the court’s independence.

Inzko acted after Bosnia’s State Parliament failed to adopt a decision to extend their mandates due to opposition by Bosnian Serb MPs.

The government of Republika Srpska has strongly rejected Inzko’s decision and said it will call for a referendum to allow Bosnian Serbs to decide on the issue. Bosnian Serbs have long accused international judges and prosecutors of bias, claiming they are intentionally ignoring crimes committed against the Serbs during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war.

However, Radojicic said that organising a referendum was a “very sensitive issue” and should be carefully thought through.

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