Background to the creation of Republika Srpska During the political crisis that followed the secession of Slovenia and Croatia from the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on June 25, 1991, a separate Bosnian Serb Assembly was founded on October 24, 1991, as the representative body of Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnian Serbs claimed that this was a necessary step since the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina at that time defined that no major changes were to be granted short of a unanimous agreement from all three sides. Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats wanted independence for Bosnia against the Bosnian Serbs’ wishes.

A plebiscite that asked citizens whether they wanted to remain within Yugoslavia was held on November 9 and 10, 1991. The parliamentary government of Bosnia and Herzegovina (with a clear Bosniak and Croat majority) asserted that this plebiscite was illegal, but the Bosnian Serb Assembly acknowledged its results. On November 21, 1991, the Assembly proclaimed that all those municipalities, local communities, and populated places in which over 50% of the people of Serbian nationality had voted, as well as those places where citizens of other nationalities had expressed themselves in favor of remaining in a joint Yugoslav state, would be territory of the federal Yugoslav state.

On January 9, 1992, the Bosnian Serb Assembly adopted a declaration on the Proclamation of the Republic of the Serb people of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Republika srpskog naroda Bosne i Hercegovine). On February 28, 1992, the constitution of the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was adopted and declared that the state's territory included Serb autonomous regions, municipalities, and other Serbian ethnic entities in Bosnia and Herzegovina (including regions described as "places in which the Serbian people remained in the minority due to the genocide conducted against them during World War II"), and it was declared to be a part of the federal Yugoslav state.

From February 29 to March 2, 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina held a referendum on independence. The majority of Bosnian Serbs boycotted the vote on the grounds that it was unconstitutional because the referendum bypassed the veto power of the representatives of the Serbian people in the Bosnian parliament. On April 6, 1992, the European Community formally recognized the independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina declared its independence on April 7, 1992. On August 12, 1992, the reference to Bosnia and Herzegovina was dropped from the name, and it became simply Republika Srpska.

On May 12, 1992, at a session of the Bosnian Serb Assembly, Radovan Karadžić announced the six "strategic objectives" of the Serbian people in Bosnia and Herzegovina:

Establish state borders separating the Serbian people from the other two ethnic communities.
Set up a corridor between Semberija and Krajina.
Establish a corridor in the Drina river valley, that is, eliminate the Drina as a border separating Serbian states.
Establish a border on the Una and Neretva rivers.
Divide the city of Sarajevo into Serbian and Bosniak parts and establish effective state authorities in both parts.
Ensure access to the sea for Republika Srpska.
At the same session, the Bosnian Serb Assembly voted to create the Vojska Republike Srpske (VRS) (Army of the Republika Srpska), and appointed Ratko Mladić, the commander of the Second Military District of the Yugoslav federal army, as commander of the VRS Main Staff. At the end of May 1992, after the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Second Military District was essentially transformed into the Main Staff of the VRS. The new army immediately set out to achieve by military means the six "strategic objectives" of the Serbian people in Bosnia and Herzegovina (the goals of which were reaffirmed by an operational directive issued by General Mladić on November 19, 1992).

The VRS expanded and defended the borders of Republika Srpska during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia. By 1993 Republika Srpska controlled about 70% of the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina with final agreement (Dayton agreement) in 1995 appropriating to Republika Srpska control over 49% of the territory.

War crimes Since the beginning of the war, the VRS (Army of Republika Srpska) and the political leadership of Republika Srpska have been accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide,ethnic cleansing of the non-Serb population, creation and running of detention camps (variably also referred to as concentration and prisoner camps), and the destruction of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian cultural and historical heritage.

Most gravest of those offences were the Srebrenica massacre in 1995, where nearly 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were systematically executed by the VRS, and the long military siege of Sarajevo that resulted in 12,000 civilian casualties.

Ethnic cleansing of non-Serb population was particularly common in the territories of Bosanska Krajina region and Drina river valley. In many instances the ethnic cleansing was conducted through well organized and efficient bureaucracy set up by the Republika Srpska authorities such as in the case of Banja Luka. Those and other cases of ethnic cleansing dramatically changed the demographic picture of Republika Srpska and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Many Republika Srpska officials were also indicted for creation and running of detention camps and in particular Omarska, Manjaca, Keraterm and Trnopolje where thousands of detainees were held. In so called "Omarska" case Dusko Tadic a member of the VRS has been found guilty by the ICTY [1]. In Omarska region around 500 deaths have been confirmed associated with these detention facilities.

According to the findings of the State Commission for the Documentation of War Crimes on the Territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 68.67% or 789 congregational mosques were either destroyed or damaged during the Bosnian War by the VRS and other unidentified individuals from the Republika Srpska. [2] Majority of destroyed mosques before the war were classified as Bosnian-Herzegovinian national monuments and some were listed with UNESCO as world heritage monuments while most of them were built in 15th, 16th and 17th century. Many catholic churches on the same territory were also destroyed or damaged especially during 1995.

In addition to sacral monuments many secular monuments were also heavily damaged or destroyed by VRS forces such as the National Library in Sarajevo. The Library was set ablaze by shelling from VRS positions around Sarajevo during the siege in 1992.

While the individuals responsible for destruction of national heritage have not yet been found or indicted it has been widely reported by international human rights agencies that the "Bosnian Serb authorities issued orders or organized or condoned efforts to destroy Muslim and Croatian cultural and religious institutions" [3]. In other cases such as the "Ferhadija" case (Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina vs. Republika Srpska) the direct involvement in destruction of national heritage, even after the war in 1995 and 1996, by Republika Srpska officials has been established. [4]

In 1993, the United Nations Security Council created the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at The Hague for the purpose of bringing to justice persons allegedly responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law in the territory of the former Yugoslavia since 1991. On July 24, 1995, the Hague Tribunal indicted Radovan Karadžić[5] and Ratko Mladić[6] on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity; on November 14, 1995, both men were indicted again on charges specific to the Srebrenica massacre. On August 2, 2001, the Hague Tribunal found General-Major Radislav Krstić, the commander of the VRS Drina Corps at the time responsible for the Srebrenica massacre, guilty of genocide [7]. Many other political leaders of Republika Srpska and VRS officers, have been indicted, tried, and convicted by the Hague Tribunal for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia. Some of them (including Karadžić and Mladić) remain at large and in hiding.

Recently a list of nearly 25,000 individuals who were involved in Srebrenica massacre alone was released [8] some of whom still hold the positions in the local government of Republika Srpska. The arrests and trials of all war crime suspects are still ongoing and their trials are planned to be held at the newly established Bosnian Herzegovinian Tribunal for the War Crimes. The trials of all suspected war criminals are expected to last for years to come.


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