SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina – Several newly-elected mayors on Tuesday boycotted the swearing-in of a convicted war criminal as new mayor of the western Bosnian town of Velika Kladusa.
Fikret Abdic was released in 2012 after serving his 15-year sentence in Croatia.
The 76-year-old Abdic was called up first during a ceremony in Sarajevo at which the mayors chosen during Oct. 2 local elections were certified. Mayors of towns around Velika Kladusa walked in to receive their certificates only after Abdic received his.
During the 1992-95 Bosnian war, Abdic formed the province of Western Bosnia which fought against fellow Muslim Bosniaks loyal to Sarajevo. For war crimes committed back then, he was tried and served in neighboring Croatia.
Asked after the ceremony how he thinks he will be cooperating with mayors of neighboring towns who chose to ignore him, Abdic told reporters that all his life he was successful in every job he did.
"Now I can promise that I can be even better," he said.
Among others sworn in is Mladen Grujicic, the mayor of Srebrenica and the first ethnic Serb elected in this Bosnian town whose name is synonymous with a slaughter carried out by Serbs.
His election is a source of anxiety and anger to the town's Muslim Bosniaks, because Grujicic doesn't acknowledge that what happened in Srebrenica was "genocide," as international courts have defined it.
Grujicic said he will work for the benefit of all citizens of Srebrenica and form a multiethnic team in his municipality.
"By forming such a team, we intend to improve the life of all in Srebrenica," he said. "I think this is the essence of the work in Srebrenica, that both Bosniaks and Serbs unite together," Grujicic said.