The High Representative has raised the issue of residence checks in Republika Srpska in a meeting in Washington, while the Bosnian Croat Presidency member said the new rules had been rushed through ahead of the general election.
Prior to presenting his latest report in the US, the High Representative to Bosnia, Valentin Inzko, raised the issue of new rules on checking residence in Republika Srpska, one Bosnia’s two entities.
In a meeting in Washington on May 13, Inzko presented his concerns about the situation in Bosnia to Hoyt Yee, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and to Senator Ben Cardin, Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.
The High Representative said he welcomed the fact that the Chairman of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic, had sent an appeal to the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina regarding the recent decision on residency in Bosnia’s mainly Serbian entity.
New residency rules in Republika Srpska introduced in April mean that more documents proving ownership of a home are now needed than in the rest of Bosnia.
The decision was made after Bosnia’s state-level Parliament failed to agree on a new residency law. Republika Srpska said it took a unilateral decision in the light of security concerns. However, critics said the decision violated the constitution and harmed the rights of returnees.
Zeljko Komsic, Croat member of the Bosnian Presidency, said in a Tuesday interview with the newspaper Oslobodjenje that the decision meant any Bosniak or Croat could lose his or her residence rights if the police did not find them at the address they reported.
He referred to several hundred cases of Bosniak returnees whose residence and identity cards were annulled last year because of earlier checks by police who did not find them in their registered homes.
These cases were described as discrimination against returnees. Some assert that the intention is to deter returnees from having their documents registered in Republika Srpska.
Komsic said security concerns were not the real reason why the entity authorities adopted the decision in April.
‘The final goal of that rule is ‘cleansing the voting lists’ in Republika Srpska in order to prevent the returnee population from significantly affecting the elections results,’ Komsic maintained.
‘I don’t see any problems related to residence reported in RS,’ he added.
‘The RS surely is not an ‘economic haven’ to which immigrants would rush from Africa, Asia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia or other countries, creating problems with organized crime,’ Komsic said.
‘When they say that in Germany, Austria, France, Holland or Italy, then it makes sense, but in BiH or one of its parts, such as RS, that is simply not true,’ he added.
Komsic argued that Republika Srpska had rushed to adopt the new rules ahead of the general elections in the country.
If two or three lawmakers elected from Republika Srpska were not under the control of the Serbian parties, it could change the perception of the entity at state-level, he suggested.