The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina announced on Friday that it would continue to enforce laws that were valid in that country, warning the Serb entity of Republika Srpska (RS) that it would face legal consequences if it disrupted the work of the judiciary and police at the state level or criminal investigations, which led to RS leader Milorad Dodik toning down his rhetoric.
In a press release the court responded to a decision adopted by the RS parliament that it would stop cooperating with the state-level court and prosecutorial authorities as well as with the country's SIPA investigation and protection agency.
RS parliament's decision came in the wake of several arrests of Bosnian Serbs suspected of war crimes and in the process SIPA searched a police station in Bosanski Novi.
"The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina will continue all its activities within its authority regardless of the decision by the Republika Srpska government which is in contravention of the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina and in disrespect of the state. We categorically deny unfounded claims that yesterday's enforcement of the court's order to the State Agency for Investigation and Protection was contrary to the Constitution and laws of Bosnia and Herzegovina. On the contrary, everything that was done was in full compliance with the Criminal Law and Law on SIPA," the court's press release says.
The court warned that the RS authorities had violated the constitution and laws by ordering entity police to use force to prevent SIPA agents from entering the entity's institutions.
Even though SIPA is not formally superior to other police bodies in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is authorised to investigate war crimes, terrorism, organised crime and corruption and other grave crimes. The court underscored that even though the decision made by entity authorities did not impact state institutions, they would continue to operate as they have until now and anyone preventing them in doing so will suffer the consequences.
On Thursday RS President Milorad Dodik was heard to make belligerent statements and threatened that "the will of RS shouldn't be put to the test." On Friday, however, he stepped back and made a relatively milder statement, calling on the country's Security Minister Dragan Mektic to come to an agreement on coordinating actions by police agencies.
He reiterated, however, that RS police in future "would not allow" intrusions into entity institutions but added that his intention was not to prevent investigations, even those where he may in fact be a suspect. "We have taken these steps exclusively to protect RS," he said.
The European Commission on Friday reacted to RS's decision. In a statement released in Brussels it warned that suspension of cooperation "with certain judicial and law enforcement agencies in Bosnia and Herzegovina could jeopardise the functioning of the judiciary and law enforcement in the country."
The EC underlined "the need to respect the rule of law throughout the whole territory of the country and we call the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to maintain mutual cooperation and dialogue."