May 2024 Monthly Forecast


Bosnia and Herzegovina

Expected Council Action

In May, the Security Council will hold its semi-annual debate on Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The current authorisation for the EU-led multinational stabilisation force (EUFOR ALTHEA) expires on 2 November.


The 1995 General Framework Agreement for Peace, also known as the Dayton Agreement, created two entities within BiH: the predominantly Bosniak and Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) and the predominantly Serb Republika Srpska (RS). The two entities are linked by a rotating tripartite inter-ethnic presidency and a two-chamber legislative branch with equal representation by the three major ethnic groups (Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs). Both entities also have their own executive and legislative branches.

In December 1995, the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) was established to garner international support for the Dayton Agreement. The PIC Steering Board (SB), which serves as the executive arm of the PIC and provides the High Representative with political guidance, consists of representatives from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK, the US, the Presidency of the EU, the European Commission, and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which is represented by Türkiye. In 1997, the PIC agreed to grant significant legislative powers to the High Representative. Known collectively as the “Bonn Powers”, these include the ability to take binding decisions and unseat elected officials who are found to be in violation of legal commitments made under the Dayton Agreement or the terms of its implementation.

Key Recent Developments

BiH continues to experience political instability and separatist rhetoric and actions. On 26 March, High Representative for BiH Christian Schmidt issued a decree to amend the Election Law of BiH. The decree introduced measures aimed at bolstering election integrity in BiH, including increased security for election materials, electronic voter identification, video surveillance, and electronic ballot counting for improved transparency and security. The decree also specifies procedures for handling complaints and sanctions, enhances gender equality, and imposes stricter controls on early political campaigning and fake news to prevent voter manipulation.

In response, on 28 March, RS President Milorad Dodik threatened to disrupt governance in BiH unless Schmidt’s decree was annulled within seven days. Dodik proposed a series of measures declaring Schmidt’s decrees illegal, disempowering the Central Election Commission, and declaring key international ambassadors—from Germany, the UK, and the US—as “enemies of BiH” to be expelled. Dodik also threatened that RS could withdraw from key state institutions if these demands are not met.

On 29 March, the National Assembly of the RS (NARS) adopted its own draft legislation on elections, which proposed the establishment of a separate commission to oversee elections in RS. That same day, the US Embassy in Sarajevo issued a press statement condemning the move and describing Dodik’s threats as “a direct attack on the state structure of [BiH] and the Dayton Peace Agreement”. Prior to the draft law entering into force, the US Embassy in Sarajevo issued a post on X (formerly Twitter) emphasising that “the creation of a parallel electoral system by [RS] government would be unconstitutional and anti-Dayton”, adding that any election conducted under such a system would have no legitimacy.

In April, Germany and Rwanda circulated a General Assembly draft resolution that, if adopted, would designate 11 July as the “International Day of Reflection and Commemoration of the 1995 Genocide in Srebrenica”. During BiH’s 1992-1995 war, Srebrenica was designated by the Security Council as a “safe area”, coming under the protection of UN peacekeepers in April 1993. Starting on 6 July 1995, Bosnian Serb forces launched an offensive against the enclave, entering Srebrenica on 11 July. In the ensuing days, over 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and teenage boys were killed in mass executions by Bosnian Serb forces. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) later determined that the mass murder amounted to an act of genocide.

The draft text, co-sponsored by a cross-regional group of countries—including BiH and Council members France, Slovenia, and the US—condemns “any denial of the Srebrenica genocide” and the glorification of individuals convicted by the ICTY of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. The negotiations on the draft text are ongoing and appear to have been contentious. The vote at the General Assembly, originally scheduled for 2 May, has been postponed to a later date.

In a series of posts on X on 9 April, RS President Milorad Dodik argued that the events in Srebrenica “cannot be characterised as genocide under international law” and criticised the draft General Assembly resolution as “directed against Srpska and the Serbian people as a whole”. He further claimed that the killing of 3,500 Serbs in the same area is “dismissed”, while “only the suffering of the Bosniaks is mentioned”. In a 24 April interview, German Special Representative for the Countries of the Western Balkans Manuel Sarrazin countered that the draft resolution “is not against Serbia, Republika Srpska or any other state, entity or group”.

On 18 April, the NARS adopted a 2021 report of the “International Commission for Srebrenica”, a body set up by the RS government in 2019. The report said that the crimes that took place in Srebrenica did not constitute genocide.  After the NARS vote, thousands of Bosnian Serbs reportedly attended a rally in the northwestern town of Banja Luka to call for the withdrawal of the draft General Assembly resolution. On 22 April, Dodik said that adopting the draft resolution “is incompatible with the continued existence of BiH”.

At a 22 April press stakeout, Russian Permanent Representative to the UN Vassily Nebenzia said that Russia would “never support” such a resolution. Arguing that the draft text is incompatible with the Dayton Agreement, since one of the entities comprising the state of BiH “never gave its consent”, Nebenzia emphasised that the draft General Assembly resolution could destabilise BiH. This stance is consistent with Russia’s previous actions; in July 2015, it vetoed a UK-proposed Security Council draft resolution that condemned “the crime of genocide at Srebrenica as established by judgments of the ICTY and ICJ and all other proven war crimes and crimes against humanity” committed during the conflict in BiH. The draft also determined that acknowledging the events in Srebrenica as genocide was essential for reconciliation. (For more information, see our What’s in Blue story of 6 July 2015.)

On 30 April, the Security Council held a briefing on the situation in BiH, at Russia’s request. Assistant Secretary-General for Europe, Central Asia and the Americas Miroslav Jenča and High Representative for BiH Christian Schmidt briefed the Council. The Serb member of the rotating tripartite inter-ethnic Presidency of BiH, Željka Cvijanović, participated under rule 39 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure, while BiH, Croatia, and Serbia participated under rule 37. (For more information, see our What’s in Blue story of 29 April.)

Human-Rights Related Developments

On 22 April, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Clément Nyaletsossi Voule called for immediate action to reverse the deterioration of civic space and social cohesion, and the weakening of democratic institutions in BiH. He stressed that “while meaningful progress has been made in transitioning to a peaceful society”, BiH still endures the legacy of “the deeply ethnically divisive armed conflict, marred by war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide”. He expressed concerns about the proliferation of restrictive laws and bills in RS related to freedom of association, opinion and expression, and peaceful assembly, as well as the re-criminalisation of defamation and the Draft law on the Special Registry and Transparency of the Work of Non-Profit Organisations. Voule called on BiH authorities to overcome their differences to protect the rights of everyone across the country. This statement was made at the end of his 14-22 April visit to the country. Voule will submit the report on his visit to the Human Rights Council in June 2025.

Key Issues and Options

A key issue is the need to address the separatist rhetoric and actions of RS authorities. One option is for the Council to issue a presidential statement endorsing the continued relevance of the Dayton Agreement and urging all parties to refrain from divisive rhetoric and actions.

Council and Wider Dynamics

Deep divisions related to BiH’s Euro-Atlantic integration and possible accession to NATO—particularly between Russia on the one hand and the US and European Council members on the other—colour Council dynamics on BiH. The European Council agreed to open accession talks with BiH on 21 March after having unanimously voted to grant BiH candidate status in December 2022.

Overall, Council members have similar concerns about BiH’s divisive ethnic politics. Most members are also critical of Dodik’s rhetoric and his recent threats of dissolution, which they view as challenging BiH’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Russia, however, tends to be supportive of Dodik’s positions.

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Security Council Meeting Records
2 November 2023S/PV.9466 This meeting record is about the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
8 July 2015S/2015/508 This was a draft resolution to commemorate the anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide, but it was vetoed by Russia and Angola. China, Nigeria and Venezuela abstained.
15 November 1999A/54/549 This report assessed the events dating from the establishment of the safe area of Srebrenica.

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