Local authorities used a crane to remove the cross from atop the white church’s dome, then cut open the tower to bring down and save the bell on Saturday. A backhoe was employed to bring the building down, turning it into rubble.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled in October 2019 that the local Republika Srpska government must remove the church and pay 31,000 euros to compensate the family of plaintiff Fata Orlovic. The church was built in 1998, two years before Orlovic returned to her village. Her family was expelled to Srebrenica – along with other Muslim residents of Konjevic Polje – during the war.
The 1995 Dayton Peace Accord ended the war and guaranteed the return of land to refugees. Orlovic, whose husband was killed during the Srebrenica massacre, returned to her property in 2000, and discovered an Orthodox church in what used to be her yard. She refused to accept money as compensation for the church site and urged her children to never sell the lot.
Orlovic then took the matter to court, and the case became widely-publicized and politicized. The US State Department has included Orlovic’s case in its annual report on international religious freedom for Bosnia and Herzegovina, while the western mainstream media has dubbed the building an “illegal Serbian church.”
Orlovic daughter Hurija Karic on Saturday called the church’s demolition a victory for her “mother and the whole family and the whole of Bosnia-Herzegovina” in a comment to RFE/RL.
Local authorities reportedly plan to rebuild the church at the village entrance. Bosnia-Herzegovina remains ethnically divided between mainly Orthodox Christian Serbs, predominantly Muslim Bosniaks and predominantly Catholic Croats. Governance is divided between Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation.
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