The Balkan Troll of the Month is an individual, a group of individuals or a media outlet that spreads hate based on gender, ethnicity, religion, or other diversity categories. The Balkan Troll is selected based on hate speech incidents identified across the Western Balkans region.
February Troll is Milorad Dodik, president of Republika Srpska, for, once again, denying the genocide in Srebrenica.
In July 2021, the High Representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina at the time, Valentin Inzko, used his power to impose amendments to the country’s criminal code in order to ban ‘the denial of genocide and the glorification of war criminals’, if it was ‘likely to incite to violence or hatred”. It included a punishment of imprisonment ranging between six months to five years.
According to Inzko, the main driving forces behind the decision were a concerning number of individuals and public authorities who questioned the legitimacy of rulings by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the glorification of convicted war criminals.
Despite the law being put into place, denial of the Srebrenica genocide and the public glorification of war criminals continued without any consequences. Many political leaders in Republika Srpska to this day refuse to accept that the events, which took place at Srebrenica in 1995, constitute an act of genocide even though the International Court of Justice recognized it as such.
This month (In February 2023), the current High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Christian Schmidt, amended the Law on Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial Centre, to allow for excess donations and funds for burials and monuments to be redirected to other needs of the centre. The Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial Centre serves as a memorial-cemetery to honour the victims of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide.
However, this decision was not accepted by all political leaders in the country, namely Milorad Dodik, President of the Republika Srpska. During a press conference, he publicly rejected the recent amendment of the law and openly voiced his denial of the events which occurred at Srebrenica as being an act of genocide. According to him, “genocide did not happen there, we all know that here in the Republika Srpska”. Milorad Dodik and his party have on numerous occasions denied the genocide in Srebrenica, claiming it to be a massacre that cannot fall under the qualification of genocide.
BIRN (Balkan Investigative Reporting Network) recently obtained documents showing the reasons behind the lack of a single indictment since the ban on ‘the denial of genocide and the glorification of war criminals’ was imposed. In the article by BIRN, it was revealed that from the time the ban was brought in back in July 2021 to the end of 2022, state prosecutors decided ‘not to conduct a total of 27 investigations into alleged denial and glorification offences’. One of the arguments used by alleged perpetrators was that freedom of speech was guaranteed under the county’s constitution.
However, regardless of this, denying the genocide that occurred in Srebrenica is first and foremost extremely harmful and disrespectful to the victims and their families. There is no justification for acts of genocide and both the perpetrators and those who deny the events having taken place, should face the consequences of doing so. Political leaders, such as Dodik who have a large influence over public opinion and hold high positions of power, should be held responsible for their actions, and abide by the law whilst equally facing the repercussions of failing to do so.