Bosnian Serb leader Dodik indicted for snubbing peace envoy

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik has held enormous sway over the years (Oleksii FILIPPOV)
Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik has held enormous sway over the years (Oleksii FILIPPOV)

Bosnia's Serb leader Milorad Dodik was indicted on Monday for refusing to heed rulings made by an international envoy charged with overseeing the country's landmark peace accords.

Tensions have mounted since Dodik signed multiple pieces of controversial legislation in July -- including bills that refuse to recognise decisions made by Bosnia's international high representative Christian Schmidt and the constitutional court.

The indictment came after prosecutors greenlit the charges against Dodik in August. That decision received official endorsement from the country's highest judicial body on Monday, paving the way for his first trial for committing alleged political crimes.

Dodik was indicted for "failure to comply with the decisions of the High Representative", an official with the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

If convicted, the punishment for the crime ranges from six months to five years in prison.

Dodik has already hinted that he will not comply with the court's decision if convicted.

"Dodik can go to court, but you will not put Milorad Dodik in prison even if you convict him," he said during a televised interview earlier this month.

The 64-year-old Kremlin ally under US sanctions has repeatedly batted away accusations of wrongdoing, denouncing the allegations as political persecution.

- Dodik vs Schmidt -

Over the weekend, Dodik appeared to backtrack in his campaign against Schmidt by retracting an earlier vow to arrest the envoy if he entered Bosnia's Serb entity -- known as Republika Srpska (RS).

The high representative is charged with overseeing the enforcement of the Dayton Agreement that succeeded in ending the country's bloody civil war in the 1990s.

Bosnia has been governed by a dysfunctional administrative system created by the Dayton pact -- divided into two bodies: a Muslim-Croat federation and RS which are connected by a weak central government.

Dodik has held enormous sway over RS for years, and has frequently stoked ethnic tensions and threatened to secede.

The Bosnian Serb leader is locked in an increasingly high-stakes showdown with Schmidt who holds vast powers, which includes the ability to sack elected officials and impose laws in Bosnia.

Dodik, however, has refused to recognise Schmidt's authority, since the position lost the backing of the United Nations thanks to an intervention by Russia and Beijing.

In July, Schmidt annulled both laws signed by Dodik.

Over the course of his career, Dodik has served multiple stints as prime minister and as president of RS along with a term as the co-president of Bosnia.

Last year, Dodik was elected again as president of the RS -- his third term in the office. However, the election was hotly contested, with his challenger briefly claiming victory before Dodik was handed the win following a final tally of the votes.

Dodik's hardline rhetoric along with frequent appearances at parties -- where he has been known to imbibe shots of brandy and belt out traditional songs -- appears to have won him many fans among Bosnia's Serbs.

Despite the folksy antics, Dodik maintains an iron-fisted grip over the political scene in RS.