The chairman of Bosnia and Herzegovina's collective presidency, Sefik Dzaferovic, has called on Croatian President Zoran Milanovic to give up his plan to present a medal to retired Bosnian Croat general Zlatan Mijo Jelic, who has been indicted for war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Jelic and the wartime commanders of four Croatian Defence Council (HVO) brigades that fought in operations to liberate Serb-occupied areas of Croatia during the 1991-1995 war are expected to receive medals from President Milanovic at a ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of Operation Storm in Knin on August 4. Milanovic has said earlier that he will not decorate the commanders as individuals but the HVO units and that the medals will be presented to their commanders.
Jelic has been indicted in Bosnia and Herzegovina for war crimes committed against Bosniaks in the southern city of Mostar in 1993. He is staying in Croatia, and has refused to stand trial in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In a special statement issued on Sunday, Dzaferovic warned that Milanovic should seriously consider all the implications of such an act because the person in question is not just a war crimes suspect but also a fugitive from justice.
Dzaferovic said that such an act would be contrary to European values and would "certainly adversely affect the relationship between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia."
"Our countries are oriented towards each other and there is a dire need for building a good relationship," he added.
Dzaferovic said that after Milanovic became the president of Croatia he expected the two countries to start dealing with their outstanding issues that had piled up over the years rather than create new ones.
The latest examples are Croatia's discriminating and insulting decision on the entry of citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina in light of the coronavirus pandemic, unilateral felling of trees on Mount Pljesevica, and the announcement that a medal will be presented to a person accused of war crimes committed in the Mostar area, he said.
Dzaferovic said that if such practice continued, it would inevitably lead to a deterioration in the relationship between the two countries and that Croatia would be to blame for it.
"We want our neighbours to respect us as much as we respect them. We will not allow anyone to insult and humiliate us," Dzaferovic said.