President Aleksandar Vucic visited the Serbian town of Priboj, where there have been several anti-Bosniak incidents in recent days, and said that people who glorify the Srebrenica massacres or shoot at mosques will face punishment.
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Aleksandar Vucic (centre) in Priboj with Mevlud Dudic, head of the Serbian Islamic Community’s highest religious and administrative body, and local imam Harun Eminagic. Photo: Instagram/@buducnostsrbijeav.
President Aleksandar Vucic said on Wednesday during a visit to the south-western Serbian town of Priboj that local policemen who were filmed celebrating with a song that glorified the Srebrenica genocide and war crimes in Croatia will be sanctioned.
“For the people who sang that [Serbian town] Sjenica would be the new Srebrenica, not only will they be punished, but they will be transferred from Priboj,” Vucic said at a press conference.
During his showpiece visit to the Bosniak-majority town, which was given widespread coverage by pro-government television channels, Vucic met local Muslim and Orthodox clerics and municipal leaders and vowed that everyone who “wants to slaughter” or “shoot and kill someone” will be punished.
Before the visit, he had declared that his intervention would “reduce inter-ethnic tensions” after several anti-Bosniak incidents in Priboj over the past fortnight.
But some of his rhetoric suggested that he was intimating that Bosniaks as well as Serbs are responsible for ethnic tensions in the town.
“Whenever someone thinks I cannot hear and do not understand what’s going on, I know well, I know well what’s going on when we are alone in a kafana [tavern], Serbs, and I know what it is like when Muslims, Bosniaks, are alone in a kafana,” he said.
Among the audience at Vucic’s press conference were relatives of Bosniaks who were abducted and then killed by a Bosnian Serb paramilitary unit called the Avengers in 1992. The victims’ relatives asked Vucic for compensation for the crime.
According to current Serbian law, people can only be officially recognised as civilian victims of war if they were wounded, killed or went missing “as a result of abuse or the deprivation of liberty by the enemy during the war or during the conduct of wartime operations in the territory of the Republic of Serbia”, which excludes the Bosniaks killed by the Avengers.
In response, Vucic told his aides “to check the impact on the budget” and promised he would inform the public about progress on the issue.
The press conference followed a pattern that has become familiar to observers of Vucic’s political theatrics, with the Serbian president vowing to resolve various other everyday problems being faced by the local majority-Bosniak community.
At one point, responding to Bosniaks’ concerns about electricity supply in the town of Sjeverin, he called Prime Minister Ana Brnabic on the phone to ask what action could be taken.
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