Milorad Dodik, president of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska, has announced that he will begin legal proceedings against former High Representative to Bosnia, British diplomat Paddy Ashdown.
According to the outspoken Dodik, who enjoys the spotlight, Ashdown will be sued before the UK court by early February for his “arrogant behavior and violations of the international agreement, the Dayton Accords”.
Dodik told a press conference that the government had collected documents and other evidence about Ashdown’s illegal actions during his time as High Representative in Bosnia between 2002 and 2006. Dodik failed to detail to which illegal actions he was referring, but it is important to note that Ashdown enjoyed Dodik’s support at that time.
Republika Srpska officials are demanding the closure of the international community’s Office of the High Representative (OHR), saying that the body is no longer necessary. The OHR was due to be phased out in 2007, but its mandate was extended because of political instability and the failure of local politicians to pass reforms.
After much arm twisting and the sacking of obstructive politicians, Ashdown succeeded in abolishing the two entities’ ethnically separate armies and police, creating unified, state-level forces. Post-Ashdown, Republika Srpska officials claim that those powers have been returned to entity jurisdiction.
Ashdown was criticized for wielding too much power, both by local officials and the international community, while his successors have been criticized for wielding too little.
But the fact is that since Ashdown (often referred to as the ‘Bosnian Maharaja’ due to his frequent use of his sweeping powers) left office in early 2006, many would agree that there has been absolutely no progress in the country’s economic, political and security situation.
In June 2004, just in one day, Ashdown sacked 60 Republika Srpska officials, mostly coming from the Serb Democratic Party (SDS), due to their failure to arrest war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic, the party’s wartime leader. At that time, Dodik was in the opposition and praised Ashdown’s move.
The SDS never managed to recover after its leadership was sacked and forbidden to take part in politics, and Dodik’s party, the Alliance of Independent Social-Democrats (SNSD), took advantage of the opportunity. Formerly a moderate party, the SNSD simply continued the SDS’s policies, but now they do so without much intervention from the international community.
Another action Dodik might be referring to is Ashdown’s tasking the Republika Srpska to establish a new commission to look into the Srebrenica massacre, after a previous commission previously reported that only hundreds of people had died, mostly fighting one another.
Ashdown ordered the commission to adjourn and try again. Accordingly, in 2004, the Bosnian Serbs admitted “that between July 10 and July 19, 1995, several thousands of Bosniaks were liquidated in a manner that represents a serious violation of International Humanitarian law” while at that time, entity president and SDS leader Dragan Cavic apologized for the crimes. Again, Dodik welcomed the report’s findings and the apology, saying it was a good step towards reconciliation. These days, however, Dodik has a different opinion, at least in public, on the subject.
After all, it is unlikely that the British court will accept the lawsuit against Ashdown. Furthermore, being the representative of the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ashdown acted only with the support of international community (and, as mentioned above, Dodik himself), with the exception of perhaps Russia in instances in which actions were directed against Bosnian Serbs. This is Dodik enjoying the spotlight once again and demonstrating his keen ability for political opportunism by using ethno-nationalist sentiments that are not real – not even to Dodik himself.