Glorification of war crimes, convicted war criminals triggering anxiety, tensions in communities, says UN rights office.
The United Nations has voiced deep concern over hate speech and incitement to violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Serbia, fearing inflammatory acts will escalate ahead of elections this year.
The concern was raised on Friday over incidents during the celebrations of the national day of Bosnian Serbs on January 9, marking the creation of the Republika Srpska (RS), Bosnia's Serb entity.
Incidents saw people "glorify atrocity crimes and convicted war criminals, target certain communities with hate speech, and, in some cases, directly incite violence," rights office spokeswoman Liz Throssell said.
The creation of the RS was one of the events seen as putting the country on the path to the 1990s Bosnian War that killed over 100,000 people.
Throssell said people had chanted the name of convicted war criminal Ratko Mladic, sung nationalistic songs calling for the takeover of locations in the former Yugoslavia, and fired shots in the air outside a mosque.
The former Bosnian Serb general, also known as the “Butcher of Bosnia” was sentenced to life imprisonment for war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in particular for the Srebrenica genocide and the siege of Sarajevo.
Tensions ahead of elections
Serbia and Bosnia will hold elections in April and October respectively, and Throssell warned that "continued inflammatory, nationalistic rhetoric" risked exacerbating an "extremely tense" political environment in 2022.
The office of the UN high commissioner for human rights said the failure to prevent and sanction such acts, which "fuel a climate of extreme anxiety, fear and insecurity", was a major obstacle to reconciliation and building trust.
Bosnia was effectively split in two by the 1990s peace accords, giving one half to the country's ethnic Bosnian Serbs, with the other governed by a Muslim-Croat federation.
Last month, RS leader Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of Bosnia's tripartite presidency, set in motion plans to withdraw from Bosnia's central institutions.
The move earned fresh financial sanctions from the United States, with Washington chiding Dodik for attempting to undermine the peace accords.