People who lived in Srebrenica until the 1992-1995 conflict but now reside elsewhere will be able to participate in the municipality's local elections later this year.
(Reuters, DPA, Balkan Insight, Fena, Office of the High Representative - 07/05/08)
"These amendments to the BiH Election Law have created a frame for fair and correct elections in Srebrenica, within the legal system of BiH,” said High Representative Miroslav Lajcak. [OHR]
The Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) parliament adopted amendments to the country's election law on Wednesday (May 7th), allowing all former residents of the eastern town of Srebrenica to vote in the municipality during October's local elections.
The changes, covering only election and only the Srebrenica municipality, were approved during a joint session of the state-level parliament's House of Representatives and House of Peoples. To cast their ballots, those who are currently registered elsewhere must re-register on the Srebrenica voter's list.
The town, which is under the jurisdiction of Republika Srpska (RS), was populated mainly by Bosniaks prior to the 1992-1995 conflict. It then became the site of the single worst atrocity in post World War II Europe, when thousands of Bosniak men and boys were executed summarily by Bosnian Serb forces.
Several thousand Bosniaks who fled Srebrenica during the war have returned, but more than 25,000 others either reside elsewhere in BiH or have gone abroad. Ethnic Serbs now constitute a majority in the town and would be able to outvote Bosniaks by a large margin, if not for the changes approved onWednesday.
On Sunday, RS Prime Minister Milorad Dodik met with High Representative Miroslav Lajcak to discuss a range of possible changes to electoral legislation, including a proposal by the Srebrenica City Council to put the town under special status, outside the jurisdiction of RS. Dodik said he opposed such a move.
Initially, Bosnian Serb leaders also opposed allowing former residents to vote in Srebrenica this autumn. But they consented following Sunday's talks.
Speaking ahead of the BiH parliament's session, RS National Assembly Speaker Igor Radojicic described the change as an act of goodwill. He also voiced hope it would stabilise the situation in Srebrenica.
On Tuesday, the ambassadors of the Peace Implementation Council's (PIC) Steering Board welcomed the initiative.
"Adoption of such an amendment would take into account the human tragedy of Srebrenica and should be seen as a gesture of good will," they said in a statement. "Srebrenica can turn from a symbol of tragedy into a symbol of political wisdom, responsibility and economic progress."
Welcoming the passage of the amendment Wednesday, Lajcak issued a special statement, praising lawmakers for their "political maturity and wisdom".
"They have taken into account the tragic history of Srebrenica and these amendments to the BiH election law have created a frame for fair and correct elections in Srebrenica, within the legal system of BiH," the top international envoy and EU Special Representative in BiH said.