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Issue #1597      June 12, 2013

Police free besieged MPs from furious mothers

Police special forces formed a human cordon last week to free 1,500 MPs, civil servants and foreign guests from Bosnia’s besieged parliament building. Nearly 3,000 people demanding action on a new ID law blockaded the building on Thursday with a human chain.

Parliament employees who tried to escape from windows were turned back with yells of “Go back to work.” Sarajevo cab drivers supported the protest by blocking streets around the building.

The protesters demanded a new law on ID numbers after the old one lapsed in February, leaving babies born since without personal documents.

Protesters intended to prevent MPs they accuse of ethnic bickering from leaving until they passed new legislation but were persuaded to give in because of the foreigners trapped inside.

What had started as a small demonstration the day before grew into a blockade of the building, with more people joining every hour and the protest stretching into the night and the next morning.

Women with babies in buggies faced off with police special forces deployed to the scene. One pram was marked with a sign reading: “You will not leave the building until I get an ID number.”

Sarajevo Mayor Ivo Komsic joined the protest, saying: “I am here on behalf of over 1,500 Sarajevo babies who can’t get travel documents.” Media reports about a three-month-old baby who can’t get a passport for life-saving medical treatment abroad sparked the initial protest.

The government agreed to issue temporary ID numbers until a new law was passed, but protesters said that wasn’t enough. Bosnia Herzegovina consists of two semi-autonomous mini-states, each with its own president, government and parliament.

Those are linked by a joint parliament, government and a three-member presidency. Ethnic squabbles have nearly ground many government services to a halt.

Morning Star  

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