BOSNIA: Bosnia Elects War Criminal, Corrupt Officials as Mayors
Five people who were convicted of war crimes, corruption, kidnapping and abuse of office have been elected as mayors in municipal polls in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Article published by www.balkaninsight.com on 4 October 2016
Srdjan Kureljusic BIRN Sarajevo
Voters in Bosnia and Herzegovina have elected five people as mayors who have been convicted of various crimes - including Fikret Abdic, who was jailed for 15 years for committing war crimes during the 1992-95 conflict, and will now be the mayor of Velika Kladusa for the next four years.
The five who were elected in Sunday’s polls were among about 50 candidates for municipality mayors who have either been convicted or accused of various crimes or were under investigation.
Abdic was released from a Croatian prison in March 2012 after serving two-thirds of his 15-year sentence.
Before the war, Abdic was an executive at Agrokomerc, whose headquarters were in Velika Kladusa and which employed 13,000 people, making it one of the most successful agricultural firms in the former Yugoslavia. Because of his success in business, Abdic enjoyed strong backing locally.
During the war, he was a member of the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina before founding the breakaway Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia in 1993.
The self-proclaimed Bosniak-led statelet, whose centre was the town of Velika Kladusa, existed until 1995.
While leading the breakaway statelet, Abdic fought against fellow Bosniaks who were loyal to the Sarajevo government and cooperated with Serb and Croat forces in Bosnia and Croatia.
Several prison camps for captured Bosnian Army soldiers were set up in the Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia, holding over 5,000 prisoners, and war crimes were committed there.
Murat Tahirovic of the Association of Victims and Witnesses of Genocide said it was a shame that people who committed war crimes could run as candidates in elections and win with nationalist policies.
“For Bosnia and Herzegovina itself, the fact that a person like Abdic has won an election in one of its municipalities means nothing, but the fact that we had elections won by a person like him demonstrates that only nationalism can win in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Tahirovic said.
“We can see that all those who said nationalism was their plan and programme have actually won these elections,” he added.
Bosnian electoral law allows people who have been convicted to run for office, except for those who have been charged by the UN-backed Yugoslav war crimes court in The Hague.
People who are serving jail time handed down by any Bosnian court for war crimes cannot run for office, but after they are released, they can legally stand in elections.
Senaid Memic, who also has a criminal conviction, won a new mandate as mayor of Ilidza at Sunday’s local elections.
In 2005, he was accused of interfering with the work of the judiciary because he insulted a judge who handed down a verdict convicting his son of the illegal possession of weapons.
The court sentenced him to four months in prison, although the sentence was later reduced to three months. In 2008, Memic was granted an amnesty.
Memic told BIRN that he expected to win.
“The people have expressed their opinion. We shall continue working. As far as those who tried to set me up are concerned, they can now see what they did. Whatever they did, they did it to themselves,” Memic said.
Miroslav Kraljevic, a candidate from the Union of Independent Social Democrats who was found guilty of kidnapping, won the election for the mayor of Vlasenica.
Kraljevic was convicted of kidnapping and fined around 2,000 euros after signing a plea agreement with the prosecution.
According to the verdict, he and another politician kidnapped a city council delegate in September 2010 and held him in Serbia for 12 days.
Kraljevic told BIRN before the elections that the conviction was in the past.
“There are always people who try to use something for their benefit. I am personally convinced I will win. I cannot guarantee, but I think this will not affect my candidacy in any way,” he said.
Radenko Banjac, who was elected as the mayor of Ribnik on Sunday, was found guilty of abusing his authority.
Emir Bubalo, who was elected as the mayor of Konjic, was convicted of committing fraud at work.
Besides the five candidates who were convicted under second-instance verdicts, 14 more candidates, who were either accused of or under investigation for various crimes, won mandates in Sunday’s municipal polls.
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CREDITS: The cover photo is taken from original article (Photo: YouTube screenshot)
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