By Mladen Dragojlovic for Southeast European Times in Banja Luka — 09/10/13



The draft amendment would punish BiH citizens who fight in other countries’ conflicts.

Amendments to the criminal law in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) being debated in the parliament would make it illegal for BiH citizens to go to other countries as mercenaries or soldiers.

“Bosniaks suffered enough deaths in recent war. It is not necessary that they go and die in the battles in foreign countries. Sometimes it is necessary to protect people from themselves,” BiH Security Minister Fahrudin Radoncic said when he announced the draft amendments on September 25th.

According to the amendments, people who get involved with paramilitary organisations will face three years in prison. Those who recruit and organise departures to foreign countries would be punished by up to 10 years in prison, and those who propagate foreign battlefields face three months of prison time.

“I think that it would be a responsible move to prevent young BiH people from unnecessarily dying in battles worldwide,” Radoncic told local journalists.

Radoncic sent his proposal to parliament a day after it was confirmed that a third BiH citizen, 20-year-old Emedin Velic from Sarajevo, was killed while fighting in Syria. Nine days earlier, BiH citizen Dervis Halilovic was killed.

In May, Muaz Sabic from Zenica died in Syria as the first confirmed “mujahid” from BiH.

According to the BiH Ministry of Security, more than 60 BiH citizens are in Syria fighting with the rebels. Unofficially, this number is thought to be about 300 citizens.

Dževad Galijasevic, a terrorism expert in the Federation of BiH, told SETimes that there are several people in the country who recruit young Bosniaks to go to battle in Syria.

“During the war in BiH, between 5,000 and 7,000 foreign warriors came to fight on the Bosniak side. After the war, the state gave a lot of citizenships to those persons — more than half of them are Syrians. So, Salafis in BiH consider fighting with the rebels in Syria as an obligation to pay the debt to Syrian people,” Galijasevic said.

Galijasevic said that the BiH citizens on Syrian battlefields are members of the al-Nusri movement, which is close to al-Qaeda.

Modern Islamic factions do not follow the jihad beliefs of the extremist terrorist organisations, including al-Qaeda.

“People who commit such disgusting acts and mock the honorable Islamic teachings are perverting the faith,” Tuzla mufti representative Vahind Efendi Falovic said.

BiH Parliamentary Security Commission Chairwoman Dusanka Majkic told SETimes that the proposed amendments would be beneficial, but the question is how to implement them.

“We know that a certain number of BiH citizens are in Syria, but there is no official confirmation. It is hard to find out where they are after they leave BiH territory. When the state organises departures for military missions, everything is known, but in this case we know nothing,” Majkic said.

She emphasised that the changes, if parliament adopts them, can be implemented only for people who return from foreign battlefields, and only then if the prosecutor’s office has convincing evidence about the person’s involvement in war.

How can regional states limit citizens from fighting in foreign conflicts? Tell us your thoughts below.

This content was commissioned for