US slaps new sanctions on Bosnia and Herzegovina officials

Washington accuses sanctioned officials of pursuing ‘ethnonationalist and political agendas’ at expense of citizens.

The US Treasury Department building
The US Treasury Department sanctions target Marinko Cavara, the president of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Alen Seranic, the Serb Republic's minister of health and social welfare [File: Patrick Semansky/AP Photo]

The United States has imposed sanctions on the president of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Bosniak-Croat federation and an official of the Bosnian-Serb entity, accusing them of threatening the country’s democratic institutions.

In a statement on Monday, the US Department of the Treasury said it was blacklisting Marinko Cavara, a member of a nationalist Bosnian-Croat party, and Alen Seranic, the Serb Republic’s minister of health and social welfare.

“Marinko Cavara and Alen Seranic have each sought to pursue ethnonationalist and political agendas at the expense of the democratic institutions and citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E Nelson.

“Today’s action demonstrates the United States’ steadfast commitment to the stability and prosperity of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

The new sanctions block assets owned by Cavara and Seranic under US jurisdiction and bar US citizens from any transactions with them.

The US issued similar sanctions against Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik in January, accusing him of threatening the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Washington is ramping up the pressure on nationalist politicians who it accuses of threatening the 1995 Dayton Accords, the US-brokered deal that ended more than three years of war in Bosnia. The conflict left approximately 100,000 people dead and displaced two million others.

The 1995 agreement also established Bosnia and Herzegovina as a state composed of two entities: a Bosniak-Croat-dominated federation and a Serb-run Republika Srpska.

Cavara has been president of the Bosniak-Croat federation since 2015.

On Monday, the Treasury said Cavara was sanctioned for refusing to carry out his duties to nominate judges to the Constitutional Court, which the department said plays a “crucial role” in the country’s constitutional order.

Meanwhile, the department accused Seranic of supporting the secessionist activities of Dodik, the Bosnian Serb leader sanctioned by Washington earlier this year.

Seranic did this by promoting a law that would set up a Serb Republic agency to review new medicines, creating a parallel to a national agency with the same role, the Treasury said. The law is not yet in effect.

Dodik was heavily criticised by the US for moving to pull the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska out of several national institutions, including the army, the judiciary, and the tax system, triggering the country’s most challenging political crisis since the 1990s.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies