By David Sophrin
Impunity Watch, Reporter
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina – The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday that the national constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina discriminates against Jews and Roma and must be amended.
Currently in Bosnia only Muslim Bosniaks, Roman Catholic Croats, and Christian Orthodox Serbs are allowed to run for political office, while Jews and Roma are forbidden. This ruling by the European Court of Human rights came about after two activists, Jakob Finci, a Bosnian Jew and the current Bosnian ambassador to Switzerland, and Dervo Sejdic who is of Roma ethnicity, filed a complaint in the Court in 2006. Past attempts by both men to run for national office in Bosnia were thwarted by the constitutional provision that the Court ruled on.
Following the ruling, Finci applauded the Court’s action. “I am delighted that the European Court has recognized the wrong that was done in the constitution 14 years ago. The Bosnian politicians need to right the wrongs in the constitution quickly.”
Bosnia, as a party to the Convention that established the European Court of Human Rights, is now obligated to amend its Constitution. In making its decision, the court noted that “authorities must use all available means to combat racism, thereby reinforcing democracy’s vision of a society in which diversity is not perceived as a threat but as a source of enrichment.” Bosnia had previously agreed to modify its election laws to put them in line with the European Convention on Human Rights, a requirement for EU membership.
The Bosnian Constitution was drafted as a part of the broader Dayton Peace Accords, which ended the nearly four year war in the former Yugoslavian republic between Bosnian, Serbian, and Croatian ethnic groups. The constitution currently separates the population of the nation between “constituent peoples”, including Bosnians, Croats, and Serbs, as opposed to “others”, including Jews and Roma.
Past attempts to amend Bosnia’s election laws have had little success.
For more information, please see:
AP – Court: Bosnia discriminates against Jews and Roma – 22 December 2009
DW – European Court rules Bosnia’s constitution is discriminatory – 22 December 2009
EUROPEAN VOICE – Human rights rebuffs Bosnia – 22 December 2009
RADIO FREE EUROPE – European Court Condemns Bosnia Over Jews – 22 December 2009
VOA – European Court: Bosnia’s Constitution Unfair to Jews, Roma – 22 December 2009