August 24, 2016 / 3:02 PM / in 2 years

Bosniak president asks Bosnia's top court to stop Serb vote on national day

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Bosnia’s Bosniak president on Wednesday asked the constitutional court to halt a vote planned by Bosnian Serbs on whether to continue marking their national day on an Orthodox Christian holiday, a date the court ruled as discriminatory to non-Serbs.

Bakir Izetbegovic, the newly elected Bosniak-Muslim member of Bosnia's tripartite inter-ethnic presidency, speaks during the presidential inauguration ceremony in Sarajevo November 17, 2014. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

On Jan. 9, Bosnian Serbs hang out flags and broadcast Orthodox Christian ceremonies to mark the anniversary of the day in 1992 when they declared independence from Bosnia before a three-year war claimed 100,000 lives.

But non-Serbs — Catholic Croats and in particular Bosniak Muslims — say that holding the celebration of Statehood Day on a religious holiday violates their country’s principle of secularism and pluralism.

This led the Constitutional Court to order the date to be moved.

In July, the Serb Republic parliament decided to hold a referendum on Sept. 25 to declare their Statehood Day on Jan. 9, its current date which falls on a Orthodox Christian holiday.

On Wednesday, Bakir Izetbegovic, the Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) member of the tripartite presidency asked the Constitutional Court to force the Serb Republic to annul the decision and halt all activities related to its organization.

“I ask the court the declare the Serb Republic National Assembly’s decision unconstitutional, to annul it and to oblige the assembly to abandon temporarily all decisions and activities related to the referendum organization until the court delivers its final opinion on this request,” Izetbegovic said.

But Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Zeljka Cvijanovic challenged the authority of the Constitutional Court and said Izetbegovic’s request will not stop the region from holding the vote.

“This is an attack on the Serb Republic institutions and an attempt to degrade it and take away its authorities,” said Cvijanovic.

Bosnian Serb President Milorad Dodik had also threatened to push for referendum on the authority of the national court which he says is biased against Bosnian Serbs.

Reporting by Maja Zuvela; Editing by Ivana and Raissa Kasolowsky

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