Bosnian Serbs Accused of Planning ‘Military-Style’ Police Force

Concerns have been raised about Republika Srpska's plan to inaugurate a new 'gendarmerie' instead of setting up a reservist police force - a proposal that was dropped on Monday after widespread criticism.

A source inside the Republika Srpska police told BIRN that the new gendarmerie will be similar to the gendarmerie in neighbouring Serbia - a "highly operational organisational unit of the Serbian police of a military-police type that performs both, civilian and military duties". The Serbian gendarmerie deals with terrorism, organised crime and public order situations.

The Republika Srpska gendarmerie will be a renamed version of the entity's current police support unit, but enlarged with an unspecified number of extra officers.

The US embassy in Sarajevo and the Office of the High Representative, Bosnia's international overseer, welcomed the decision not to form the reservist police force but requested further information about the plans to change the name of the support unit to the gendarmerie, a name which implies that its officers could be a militarised wing of the Republika Srpska police.

Members of the Bosnian Serb parliament discussed the issue on Tuesday, but were not given an explanation about why the government gave up the idea of establishing a reservist police force or how the new gendarmerie will be constituted.

Nihad Colpa, the leader of the Civic Alliance party and an MP in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the country's other entity, said he believes that the gendarmerie will actually be a "Republika Srpska infantry".

"Gendarmerie members live, work and operate in a military-style barracks, and another coincidence with this military set-up is that the ranks of the gendarmerie are military, not police,"...

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