Mon, 06 Apr 2020

Documents released by the U.S. Department of Justice show that Bosnia-Herzegovina's Bosnian Serb entity has renewed a contract with a Texas-based law firm and lobbyist that it hired in 2019 to 'provide general advice and representation regarding international legal and policy matters.'

The newly released documents show that the firm in Austin, Texas -- McGinnis Lochridge -- informed the U.S. Department of Justice on February 18 about its one-year contract to provide lobbying and legal services to the government of Republika Srpska.

The filing was made in the form of a letter written to Republika Srpska's Minister of Economic Relations and Regional Cooperation Zlatan Klokic on December 23 by attorney Martin T. Lutz, a partner at McGinnis Lochridge.

The letter includes Klokic's signature and an official seal of the government of Republika Srpska indicating that it had been 'agreed to and accepted' by Klokic on February 5.

Lutz said in the letter that his firm expects to give 'general advice and representation' on Banja Luka's 'legal rights and obligations under applicable international law including the Dayton Peace Accords,' the European Convention on Human Rights, and other international agreements to which Bosnia-Herzegovina is a party.

Lutz also said his firm expects to advise and represent Banja Luka on its relations with the international community, as well as its 'rights and obligations vis-à-vis the Office of High Representative, the Peace Implementation Council, the UN Security Council, the OSCE, the European Union, the Council of Europe, and others.'

The letter notes that Republika Srpska has agreed to pay the U.S. firm a monthly retainer fee of $80,000 for services under the one-year contract that began on January 1, 2020.

Klokic refused to comment to RFE/RL about the contract.

Lutz told RFE/RL on February 20 that 'the rules of legal ethics' and his firm's 'obligations of client confidentiality' prevent him from commenting publicly about work for a client 'beyond what is a matter of public record, unless instructed to do so by the client.'

Lutz also told RFE/RL that Republika Srpska had 'not asked us to discuss our work with the press.'

A similar contact signed last year by Banja Luka and the Texas firm came into effect on May 1 and expired at the end of 2019.

Revelations about the renewal of the contract emerged amid calls by Milorad Dodik, the Bosnian Serb member of Bosnia's multiethnic presidency, for a referendum on the future status of Republika Srpska.

Dodik's push comes as Bosnian-Serb lawmakers in Banja Luka have been expressing anger about a recent ruling by Bosnia's Constitutional Court against recent legislation on land ownership passed by authorities in Banja Luka.

The United States, the European Union, Britain, Germany, France, and Italy have said that any 'unilateral withdrawal from institutions, or blockages of decision-making within them, are unacceptable and counterproductive.'

Bosnia-Herzegovina emerged as two autonomous regions -- the Bosniak-Croat Federation and Republika Srpska -- as a result of the Dayton Accords that brought an end to Bosnia's 1992-1995 war.

With reporting by RFE/RL correspondent Todd Prince in Washington

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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