Brussels (Brussels Morning) US President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Tuesday, updating Washington’s Western Balkans sanctions policy to target corruption, human rights abuses and acts that threaten democracy in the region.
Citing an official State Department description of the expanded policy, the White House emphasised that the new executive order provides additional sanctions intended “to target individuals who threaten the peace, security, stability, or territorial integrity of any area or state in the Western Balkans”, as well as those directly or indirectly engaged in serious human rights abuses.
The executive order gave special weight to a provision about actors who “violate or obstruct the implementation of regional agreements and the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals”, the successor to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
Biden’s latest executive order comes as the Tribunal upheld the life sentence for Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladić, confirming his culpability in the Srebrenica genocide and the siege of Sarajevo in the 90s, a verdict which as been widely criticised by Serbian nationalists who consider Mladić to be a hero.
Although Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić refused to comment on the verdict on Tuesday, she slammed the court as being “undoubtedly political”, and accused the UN-established tribunal of failing to contribute to reconciliation.
“We are now farther away from reconciliation than we were 26 years ago”, Brnabić told Serbian media. “It seems now we have worse intolerance between peoples than we had during the conflict. The Hague (Tribunal) contributed a lot in this regard”, she said, going on to claim that no Serbian victims ever saw justice.
Nationalist Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, who presides over the Republic of Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina, an entity largely shaped by Mladić’s military conquests, went a step further in taunting Biden’s sanctions by claiming Mladić is a hero to all Serbs. The Moscow- and Belgrade-backed Dodik continues to threaten secession of the predominantly Serbian parts of BiH, promising eventual unification with Serbia.