Bosnian Serb leader refuses to enter plea over defying peace envoy

Bosnian Serb nationalist and pro-Russian governer Milorad Dodik denied on Monday to enter a plea on an indictment charging him with defying plans by the High Representative, an international envoy who oversees serenity across the nation. Dodik was indicted in August by state prosecutors in the capital Sarajevo, after signing laws that suspended rulings by Bosnia’s constitutional court and by the peace envoy.  The indictment was confirmed by the state court. Presiding judge Jasmina Cosic Dedovic said Dodik’s refusal to enter a plea meant he pleaded not guilty.

Under the law, the court must currently go on with proceedings, legal experts conveyed. After the hearing, Dodik told reporters he did not make sense of the indictment. “This court is unconstitutional and unlawful,” he said adding: “This is a politically motivated, trumped-up trial.” Bosnian Serbs deny jurisdiction of the central state court and prosecutors as it was set up by the peace envoy after the war, not by the Dayton treaty. Under the peace deal, Bosnia was fragmented into two autonomous areas, the Serb Republic and a Federation dominated by Croats and Bosniaks, connected via a weak central government – a blueprint that saved serenity but left Bosnia dysfunctional as a state.

Dodik has acted to separate his Serb-dominated area from Bosnia over the past two years and several times constantly denounced his political opponents and Western ambassadors to Bosnia, where around 100,000 people lost their precious lives in the 1992-95 war. Previous week, Christian Schmidt, the international peace envoy to Bosnia, tasked with the civilian implementation of the Dayton accords, said Dodik’s secessionist policies are an important challenge to the political settlement in the volatile Balkan nation. Schmidt amended Bosnia’s criminal code in July to provide for prosecutions of those seen as attacking Bosnian state institutions. Under the amendments, any official in Bosnia who could not succeed to enforce a decision of the international High Representative or obstructs it in any way can be jailed for up to five years.