The United Nations expressed concern about the rise of hate speech and glorification of war crimes in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia amid concerns in the former.
Bosnian Serbs celebrated their prohibited state holiday on Sunday marking the creation of the Republika Srpska (RS) – Bosnia's Serb entity that was declared three decades ago, triggering a war in which 100,000 were killed.
Rights office spokesperson Liz Throssell said the U.N. was "deeply concerned" by incidents that saw individuals "glorify atrocity crimes and convicted war criminals, target certain communities with hate speech, and, in some cases, directly incite violence."
She said people had chanted the name of convicted war criminal Ratko Mladic during torchlight processions, sung nationalistic songs calling for the takeover of locations in the former Yugoslavia and fired shots in the air outside a mosque.
Local media and victims' associations highlighted that in Foca on Saturday several hundred people attended a fireworks display organized by Red Star Belgrade football supporters at which a large portrait of Mladic was unveiled on a building.
The former Bosnian Serb general was sentenced to life imprisonment for war crimes in Bosnia, in particular for the Srebrenica massacre and the siege of Sarajevo.
Serbia and Bosnia will hold elections in April and October respectively, and Throssell warned that "continued inflammatory, nationalistic rhetoric" risked exacerbating an "extremely tense" political environment in 2022.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said the failure to prevent and sanction such acts, which "fuel a climate of extreme anxiety, fear and insecurity in some communities," was a major obstacle to reconciliation and building trust.
Bosnia was effectively split in two by the 1990s peace accords, giving half to the country's ethnic Bosnian Serbs, with the other governed by a Muslim-Croat federation.
Last month, RS leader Milorad Dodic, the Serb member of Bosnia's tripartite presidency, set in motion plans to withdraw from Bosnia's central institutions.
The move earned fresh financial sanctions from the United States, with Washington chiding Dodic for attempting to undermine the peace accords.
The U.S.-brokered Dayton peace agreement in 1995 ended 3 1/2 years of ethnic warfare in Bosnia, dividing the Balkan country into two autonomous regions – the Serb Republic and the Federation dominated by Bosniaks and Croats.
Dodik's secessionist rhetoric of recent months has encouraged Serb nationalists who in recent days provoked incidents across the Serb Republic, firing in the air near mosques during prayers, publicly praising convicted war criminals and threatening their Muslim neighbors.
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