Residents of the Bosnian Serb Republic voted in a referendum Sept. 25 to maintain Jan. 9 as a national holiday in defiance of a court ruling. The date remembers Jan. 9, 1992, when ethnic Serbs declared their own state within Bosnia and triggered a brutal conflict in which it is estimated 100,000 people lost their lives. The Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina had banned the referendum, and had originally ruled that the date should be changed because it discriminated against Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats. Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik, who had set the date for the vote, said he was proud of the peaceful manner in which the referendum passed.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein on Sept. 12 urged the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to end its pattern of expelling and detaining migrants contrary to international standards. Numerous central and eastern European countries have recently closed their borders to fight the influx of migrants, and many migrant families have found themselves either trapped in Macedonian transit centers or forced into neighboring countries. Zeid strongly denounced the treatment of such families, stressing that all migrants deserve not only adequate living requirements but also opportunity for employment and education. Zeid also expressed concern over the country's Asylum Law (PDF), which significantly hinders the ability for migrants to be granted legal asylum upon request. Reportedly, 600 migrants have sought legal asylum in Macedonia since 2015, yet only five have actually succeeded. Zeid called on Macedonia and neighboring countries to address the ongoing suffering and mistreatment of all migrant families and abide by international law.
Well, isn't this cute. Talking Points Memo notes that when Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein supped with Putin at a Moscow confab sponsored by Kremlin state media mouthpiece RT in December, also on hand was Donald Trump's military advisor, retired General Mike Flynn. The same Mike Flynn who has called for the "destruction of Raqqa" to defeat ISIS, and boasts that he is "at war with Islam," The Intercept informs us. Yet Stein, in her viral YouTube statement from Red Square during the trip, filled with predictable "anti-war" rhetoric, had not a syllable of criticism either for Flynn or for her Kremlin hosts—who were then (as now) busy bombing the crap out of Syria.
It was certainly convenient for Serbian ultra-rightist Vojislav Seselj that the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) chose to convict his buddy Radovan Karadzic of genocide on March 24—the same day that Operation Allied Force, the NATO bombing campaign against Serbia, began in 1999. Seselj—leader of the Serbian Radical Party and a former paramilitary warlord, himself facing charges before The Hague-based tribunal—had already planned a rally in downtown Belgrade that day to commemorate the anniversary. Of course it became a rally in support of Karadzic, wartime leader of the Bosnian Serb Republic. "The criminal Hague, the false court of the Western powers, has condemned Karadzic to 40 years," Seselj railed to hundreds of gathered supporters. "They convicted him when he was innocent, only because he led the Serb people in Bosnia during a crucial moment." In another case of fascist pseudo-anti-fascism, he compared the European prisons holding Karadzic and other accused Serb war criminals to "Hitler's camps." To make it even better, many of his supporters bore the flag and regalia of the Chetniks—the World War II-era Serbian nationalist movement that collaborated with the Nazis after the German occupation of Yugoslavia in 1941. (The Independent, Radio B92)
French police resumed their eviction of the Calais migrant camp known as "the Jungle" on March 1 after a night of violent clashes with camp residents. Riot police fired tear gas after migrants began throwing rocks, and at least 12 shacks were set ablaze. Those living in the camp, mainly from the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa, hope to cross the Channel. The government is promising to offer alternative shelter to all of those in the camp, said to number between 800 and 3,500, according to various estimates. Demolition crews reportedly left standing shacks that were clearly inhabited. (EuroNews, March 1; BBC News, Feb. 29) Aslo Feb. 29, Macedonian police fired tear-gas at a crowd of migrants who destroyed the barbed-wire fence on the Greek border using a makeshift battering ram. It is unclear if any migrants succeeded in crossing the border at Idomeni, where some 7,000 are stranded on the Greek side as Macedonian authorities let only a very few pass. (BBC News, Feb. 29)
Riots broke out in the early hours of Dec. 3 at Greece's frontier with Macedonia as migrants and asylum seekers stranded there for the past two weeks blockaded the border, preventing people from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan from crossing. Since Nov. 18, only refugees from those three countries have been admitted into Macedonia, while other nationalities have been turned away. Many of those refused entry have boarded buses and returned to Athens in recent days, but about 3,000 have stayed to protest being discriminated against on the basis of nationality. Some have embarked on hunger strikes while several Iranian asylum seekers sewed their lips closed last week. (IRIN)
The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) on Oct. 19 filed a criminal complaint against a high-ranking CIA official for mistreatment of Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen who was detained and allegedly tortured for four months in 2003. El-Masri was on vacation in Macedonia when he was mistaken for Khalid al-Masri, a suspect in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. El-Masri was then transported to Afghanistan where he was detained and questioned for four months under the direction of Alfreda Frances Bikowsky. At the time, Bikowsky was deputy chief of the Central Intelligence Agency's Bin Laden Issue Station. ECCHR asserts in the complaint that the US Senate Torture Report ties Bikowsky to el-Masri's detention, and ECCHR requests that the German federal prosecutor investigate.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Sept. 25 announced that the flow of refugees into Europe shows no signs of easing or stopping, as approximately 8,000 refugees a day seek to enter Europe. Amin Awad, the regional refugee coordinator for then UNHCR stated that problems now facing governments may turn out to be only the tip of the iceberg. Awad stated that the UN is planning for the potential displacement of 500,000 people from the Iraqi city of Mosul if Iraqi forces fight to recapture the city from Islamic State. Also that day, the UNHCR reported about the high number of migrants entering Europe along the Serbian-Croatian border. More than 50,000 migrants have entered through the town of Tovarnik, Croatia since mid-September.