ON THE STATUS OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
for the period January – December 2007)
Delays in implementation of reforms and repeated complication of political
relations on ethnic grounds have been the main features of the previous
year. In spite of this, Bosnia and Herzegovina initialled the
Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union, thereby
leaving possibilities open for speeding up of reform processes, including
those in the field of rule of law and respect for human rights and
freedoms, and consequently rapprochement with the EU.
That the year 2007 was in fact lost, from the aspect of implementation of
reforms and necessary changes, is best illustrated by the fact that only
27 pieces of legislation, of the 135 planned at the state level, were in
fact adopted. In the field of human rights, the relevant Ministry forwarded
to the parliament only 13 per cent of the planned laws. It should also be
added that Bosnia and Herzegovina did not manage to fulfil two thirds of
the requirements set by the European Union in priorities and conditions of
the European Partnership, which means that the list of unfulfilled
requirements has grown to 72 items. Finally, Bosnia and Herzegovina
occupies the 84th place in the world by Transparency International’s
perception of corruption measurements, which illustrates further the state
of the country from the aspect of the rule of law.
It should be noted that the reform of the institution of Ombudsman of
Bosnia and Herzegovina has not been completed last year either, although
the final deadline for this was 31 December 2006. The continuation of
agony, with the only institution for protection of human rights at the
level of Bosnia and Herzegovina remaining solely on paper, is a reflection
of the actual lack of interest of the authorities in protection of human
rights and establishing of appropriate mechanisms and institutions for
their protection. This means that human rights are practically left to the
non-governmental sector, which is not able to respond to all challenges in
this field under current circumstances.
The situation in the sphere of human rights is additionally burdened by
the fact that the main players of the crimes committed in Bosnia and
Herzegovina – Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, have not yet been brought
to justice, and the fact that efforts on establishing of truth and
reconciliation have been delayed.
It should also be stressed that finding and identification of persons
considered missing has been delayed too, which represents, among other
things, violations of human rights of members of their families.
Frequent attacks of the Republika Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik and
his party's officials against representatives of the civil society and a
number of journalists and independent media have been registered over the
previous year. The Transparency International and its Executive Director
Boris Divjak have been in the very focus of these attacks. These actions
deserve the strongest condemnation by democratic public, as they represent
a dangerous and serious threat against fundamental values of democracy and
open society. The authoritarian attitude towards and pressures against
independent organizations and media seriously endanger not only the
freedom of expression, but also threaten fundamental values of the
RETURN OF REFUGEES AND DISPLACED PERSONS
The total of 3,743 returnees' households celebrated the 13th post war
anniversary without electricity, whereas according to official records
2,700 families are still living in collective centres at 106 locations in
43 municipalities. Unofficially, at least 1,500 people are placed in
another hundred or so locations. These persons have no status, nor can
they relate to any particular institution in charge of their care. These
are mainly elderly and sick persons who do not wish to return to their
pre-war homes, which is why they lost their refugee or displaced person
status, while they have not secured housing facilities in their new places
of residence. Almost 45,000 requests for restoration of housing
units were transferred into 2008, i.e. there are more than 140,000 people
who expressed a desire to return and are still waiting for
Based on the data that more than 5,000 housing units were reconstructed in
2007, it is easy to calculate that under the current pace of
reconstruction, it would take eight years for meeting of all received
requests. And new requests are submitted every day.
At present, 6,200 families, i.e., 18,000 displaced persons, are waiting
for reconstruction of pre-war houses and flats in the municipalities of
Srebrenica, Bratunac, Zvornik, Vlasenica, Milići, and the local
community of Žepa.
Negligible results were recorded in 2007 with regard to the implementation
of Annex VII of the Dayton Peace Accord, particularly concerning the
so-called minority returns, and the so-called sustainable returns. We base
our assessments on monitoring, immediate visits to returnees'
municipalities, and on data provided by returnees' associations and
In 2007, the UNHCR registered around 6,000 returnees and stated that in
the period from 1996 to the beginning of October 2007, the total of
446,215 refugees and 577,750 displaced persons in fact returned. The
overall number of returnees is 1,023,965. This constitutes more than 45
per cent of 2.2 million of people registered as persons who had left their
pre-war homes in the period 1991-1995.
The Refugees and Displaced Persons Commission of Bosnia and Herzegovina
went a step further in December 2007, when it came forward with the
information that conclusive with 2007 it recorded over 60 per cent of
returns and reconstruction! Perhaps, but only if the statement by the
president of the stated commission is related to the data that of 445,000
registered housing units for reconstruction, 260,000 were actually
restored. But this fact cannot be linked to percentages of true returns.
The authorities have never made distinction between returnees who only
took repossession of their property and those who remained living in their
property units. One of the primary goals in the implementation of Annex VII
is restoration of socio-demographic structure of the BiH society, which
had been impaired by the war. Nothing has been done to that effect.
BiH is today divided into almost ethnically pure territories, while
consequences of war migrations have only deepened through long standing
obstructions and administrative barriers of authorities at all levels.
Reliable data on true returns cannot be obtained in the field, or figures
about restored or repaired houses that their owners sold or exchanged.
Data supplied by the RS Ministry for Refugees and Displaced Persons
indicated that 60,670 persons were granted the status of displaced
persons. There are around 9,000 refugees. Most of these people came from
the Republic of Croatia, but since they are BiH citizens, they cannot be
granted refugee status under current laws. Namely, they cannot be declared
as refugees in their own state. There are 5,757 families placed in
alternative accommodation facilities, including collective rented
facilities - some kind of collective centres, known for the worst living
conditions. The RS Government is paying individual rents for 2,450
The BiH Federation Ministry for Displaced Persons and Refugees' Report
states that 1,020,289 refugees and displaced persons returned to BiH since
the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement – 740,878 to the FBiH, 258,029
to the RS, and 21,382 persons to the Brčko District. According to
information provided by the UNHCR and BiH diplomatic and consular offices
abroad, there are 1,344,000 BiH citizens living all over the world. To an
MP's inquiry on a number of BiH citizens living abroad, the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs specified that 838,000 BiH citizens were living in
European countries, 450,000 in the United States and Canada, 50,000 in
Australia, 3,800 in Asia and 1,700 persons in Africa.
On the other hand, the BiH Association of Refugees and Displaced Persons
points out that a number of returnees to BiH is lesser by two thirds than
figures quoted in the latest report by the FBiH Ministry for Refugees and
Displaced Persons, and states that, for example, the said report records
750 families from Mostar as returnees, while their pre-war homes do not
even exist any more. Figures on returnees quoted by ministries and other
authorities and international organisations, they claim, are actually
numbers of those who repossessed their pre-war property.
It is almost impossible to find a returnees' community in which a
percentage of returns would be anywhere near the data supplied by the
UNHCR and the ministries. In addition to previously mentioned Kozluk or
Janje, the Livno Canton records more significant results in returns. The
total of 16,000 persons of Serb ethnicity returned to this canton, or 36
per cent of the population according to the 1991 census. In terms of
percentages, the best results were recorded in the municipalities of
Kupres and Drvar. Approximately 5,400 persons returned to the area of
Kupres, or 49 per cent of pre-war numbers, and 8,000 people to Drvar, or
48 per cent. The total of 3,500 persons or 41 per cent returned to
Bosansko Grahovo, and 4,500 or 36 per cent to Glamoč. However, these
results are somewhat devalued by the fact that less than 400 persons or 9
per cent of persons of Serb ethnicity returned to the Municipality of Livno,
and 570 persons or only 2 per cent to the Municipality of Tomislavgrad.
In 1991, Muslims had formed 34.6 per cent of the population in Mostar,
whereas today 42 per cent are Bosniacs. There were 33 per cent of Croats,
and today there are 54 per cent. There were 18 per cent of Serbs, and only
2.2 per cent today. According to the Serb Civic Council, 43,218 persons
returned to nine municipalities of the Sarajevo Canton since the beginning
of the process, while only 80 in 2007. According to the 1991 census, there
had been 43 per cent Bosniacs in the municipality of Ilidža, whereas there
are 87.8 per cent today. There were 36.8 per cent of Serbs, and today only
4.7 per cent. There were 10 per cent of Croats, and today only 6 per cent.
The situation is similar in the municipalities of Vogošća and Ilijaš.
According to the 1991 census, Bosniacs had constituted 63 per cent and
Croats 26 per cent of the population in Hadžići, while there are 98.8
per cent of Bosniacs, and only 1.2 per cent of Others today. In the
municipality of Stolac, there had been 43.3 per cent of Muslims, 20.9 per
cent of Serbs and 33.12 per cent of Croats, today there are 78% of Croats,
20% of Bosniacs and only 2.0% of Serbs.
In 1991, approx. 16,000 Croats had lived in the municipality of Doboj.
Today their number is reduced by tenfold, while 14,000 Bosniacs lived in
Višegrad, while only eight percent of them returned. According to the 1991
census, there had been 3,890 Serbs in Kladanj. The total of 60 families
have returned thus far, but only three to the town. More than 250 families
of Croat ethnicity had lived in Novo Selo, municipality of Bosanski Šamac
before the war. Today they are only 25. For example, around 3,000 housing
units were reconstructed in the area of Derventa, while 8,500 units are
required. The total of 186 Croat families had lived in the village of
Liskovica, ten kilometres away from Mrkonjić Grad, whereas only eight
houses have been renewed until today. Of 13,209 Bosniacs, less than 1,000
returned to Rogatica. There are only six children of school age among them
and that sets a universal example of the returnee population age structure
throughout BiH. Of 9,805 Croats who had lived in Modriča in 1991,
only five percent returned.
One of conclusions of the First Congress of Refugees, Displaced Persons
and Returnees held last year reads: “Official indicators supplied by the
UNHCR and relevant ministries are not reliable in terms of assessment of
the actual number of returnees to their pre-war homes, because results of
return in the past frequently constituted return of property and other
facts related to return, which did not necessarily result in actual
The above reflects the main difference in understanding of the Annex
VII between the authorities and people who are most affected by this
process - refugees and displaced persons. These people, like most
non-governmental organisations, are interested in the number of people who
truly returned to their pre-war homes.
A considerable number of citizens of Sarajevo, Mostar, Derventa, Zenica,
Zavidovići, Modriča, Travnik, and the rural areas as well, are
in possession of decisions on return of property, but they have no use of
this property. It is indicative that in a large number of cases in towns,
municipal authorities change spatial and development plans for attractive
locations and thus prevent previous owners to enjoy their property. As a
rule, this is done for the benefit of an ethnic group which constitutes
the majority in that town. Minority returnees claim that they still
receive unequal treatment when trying to obtain building permits or
resolve infrastructure problems.
Our findings point to the fact that returnees, particularly minority ones
are still being discriminated in employment, access to health care,
education, exercising of the right to pension and other social
The entity, cantonal and municipal institutions of BiH have not observed
the BiH Constitution, provisions of the European Convention on Human
Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and the BiH Constitutional Court’s
decision on constitutional status of peoples, which has directly affected
the process of return of refugees and displaced persons and their
integration into pre-war communities. Several sources claim than less than
one percent of returnees’ population succeeded in finding employment.
The administrative service of the city of Banja Luka employs 442 staff, of
which 85 per cent are Serbs, and 15 per cent are members of other
constitutional peoples and members of the category of Others; in municipal
services in Doboj 165 Serbs are employed, 15 Bosniacs and four Croats. In
order to meet the requirement of ethnic representation in line with the
1991 census, 61 Bosniacs and 19 Croats should be employed additionally,
and 90 Serbs dismissed. In the municipalities of Sokolac, Pale, Višegrad,
Foča, the number of employed Bosniacs and Croats can be counted by
While Bosniacs and Croats are being discriminated in the Republika Srpska,
the rights of Serb ethnic group are mostly endangered in the Federation of
BiH. Data supplied by non-governmental organisations in the last year
maintain that 893 Bosniacs were employed in the pre-war municipalities of Sarajevo, Vogošća, Centar, Novo Sarajevo, Ilijaš,
Hadžići, Ilidža, Stari grad. This is ten times more than the overall
number of Croats and Serbs employed in bodies of municipal administration.
According to the mentioned data, 42 Croats and 30 Serbs are employed by
Despite the fact that the Article 2 of the Law on Civil Servants of
the Federation of BiH was declared unconstitutional by the FBiH
Constitutional Court, some municipalities have continued to apply it. The
said article relates to proportionate representation of constitutional
peoples and contains a provision that the constitutional principle of
proportionate representation based on the 1991 census will not be applied
in civil service of municipalities of which some parts, under the Dayton
Peace Agreement and the High Representative’s decisions, were adjoined to another
entity or municipality. For example, in Sarajevo’s municipality of Stari
Grad, both the mayor and the chair of the municipal council are Bosniacs.
A group of independent councillors in the Municipal Council warned against
this disregard for constitutional principles, but the head of the
municipality rejected the allegations that this constituted a grave
violation of the equality of constitutional peoples.
According to official data provided by the Tuzla
Canton Assembly, 28 people are employed in its administration: 25
Bosniacs, two Croats and one Serb.
Of 47 employees in the Federation Employment Bureau, 39 are Bosniacs, four
Serbs and three Croats, In the period from 2001 to 2006, 89 per cent of
Bosniacs, 3 per cent of Croats and 2.7 per cent of Serbs got employment
through mediation of the Sarajevo Canton Employment Service.
There are municipalities in Bosnia and Herzegovina where not even a
single member of minority group is employed by public administration
bodies, institutions and companies. The total of 6,000 families have
returned to Bosanski Brod. None of the returnees are employed, and less
than 10 per cent managed to exercise the right to health care.
Almost as a rule, the Law on Labour and the Law on Local Self-Government
have not been applied. Returnees, whose employment status was abruptly and
illegally terminated during the war, with very few exceptions, have never
managed to restore any rights, including the right to their workplace.
Their rights in the process of privatisation have also been reduced, since
privatisation was sometimes completed prior to their actual return.
Grave economic circumstances, shortage of work and totally delayed
programmes of the so-called sustainable return have brought most of
returnees to the very edge of existence and pushed for a new wave of
migration. Lack of unified pension and health care funds, inability to be
educated in one’s own mother tongue still constitute serious impediments
for the implementation of Annex VII.
The education system in BiH is still partitioned to a great extent, and
mostly to the liking of the majority population in a particular
territorial part of the country. Educational needs of returnees in
contrast to majority communities are mostly marginalized and disregarded.
For example, in a municipal school in Potočari, although 80 per cent
of students are Bosniacs, their classes are based on the RS curricula in
the Serbian language.
Rather aggressive addresses by political leaders of the ruling parties in
2007 once again reaffirmed the formula under which homogenisation and
territorialisation of nations are the only recipes for security and
survival. This has greatly affected and impeded the process of return.
Due to poor results, and in particular due to huge administration, a
revision of the Strategy for the Implementation of the Annex VII was
announced. We expect that the strategy will be adopted by February 2008.
In September, the High Representative Miroslav Lajčak commented on
the work of the state minister for human rights and refugees, by saying
that the minister in charge of returns is affiliated with a party that
advocates return, but has failed to organise a single conference on return
in the last year, even though he is being paid for that.
STATE OF AFFAIRS IN THE JUDICIARY
In the past years numerous reforms were conducted in the area of justice
aiming at increasing its efficiency and achieving greater independence.
Thus, civil procedure codes and criminal legislation were reformed within
that framework. Judges and prosecutors were appointed by a newly
established High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council. Judges’ and
prosecutors’ salaries were increased as a measure to ensure their
independence. The Court and Prosecutor's Office were established at the
The existence of four legal systems in Bosnia and Herzegovina, one at the
BiH level, two at the entities' level, and one in the Brčko District,
imply four judicial systems as well. In addition to this, the institution
of the High Representative is a specific features in itself, because the
High Representative is vested with practically limitless powers to make
executive decisions, while not assuming responsibilities for the same, nor
is there any legal remedy for such decisions. This also limits the rule of
law, because the independence of judiciary is not guaranteed in relation
to this international institution.
There are no legal regulations or direct mechanisms to avoid for influence
of the executive or legislative government over judiciary. In addition to
the High Representative, whose powers seriously bring into question
judiciary's independence, the system of courts financing is also
problematic. Municipal and cantonal courts in the Federation of BiH are
financed from cantonal budgets and hence are dependant on the executive
and legislative powers. This also affects equal access to justice for BiH
citizens, as well as courts' efficiency since both factors depend on
financial resources and willingness of the authorities to allocate funds
In spite of conducted reforms, we have to note that the time from
initiation of proceedings to arriving at a final and binding decision is
too long; this is in direct contradiction to the Article 6 of the European
Convention on Human Rights, which defines and guarantees to every citizen
the right to a fair trial. Unreasonably long processes are partly a
consequence of a huge backlog inherited by courts. Often judges use the
same excuses when breaking deadlines for scheduling of proceedings.
Furthermore, time-consuming proceedings are often caused by an excessive
referral of cases to first instance courts by district and cantonal courts
in appellate procedures. Failure of judges to appear before the court well
prepared for the case at hand, i.e. their introduction to elements of the
case at hand at the trial is often a reason why some cases are being
dragged through courts for unacceptably long time. It should be also noted
here that some cases are being returned to lawyers due to the fact that
briefs are not properly prepared. This is impermissible and
unprofessional. Training of lawyers is considered to be one of the weakest
links in the judicial reform. Courts do not act upon the law, even in
instances when due to the nature of a dispute, such cases should be
resolved through an emergency procedure, as in cases of trespassing, right
to home, right to one's property, labour disputes, child allowance…
Failure to enforce final and binding court decisions constitutes, inter
alia, a violation of the right to an effective legal remedy. Namely,
there is no valid legal remedy available to an appellant against
non-enforcement of a decision.
A multiple legal system instituted in the country is illustrated by the
fact that five criminal codes are being applied: the Criminal Code of the
former SFRY applied in the entities in some war crimes cases, a newly
adopted BiH Criminal Code of 2003, and criminal codes of the RS and FBiH,
and the Brčko District, adopted in the same year. Concerning war
crimes trials, application of different laws causes the situation in which
a person may be sentenced to up to 20 years of imprisonment if tried under
the Criminal Code of the former Yugoslavia, and up to 40 years of
imprisonment if tried under the BiH Criminal Code for the same crimes!
Application of different laws and varied court practices are not
acceptable from the point of state's commitment to treat all citizens
equally. Thus, the existing laws and practice need to be harmonised.
New laws on criminal procedure and other procedural laws are aimed at
shortening of proceedings before courts and increase of court's
efficiency. However, introduction of novelties as a combination of
continental and Anglo-Saxon laws underlined the role of the defence lawyer
on one hand, but ability of parties to engage able and implicitly
expensive lawyers as well. This situation seriously brings into question
the right to a fair trial since one can gather from practice that only
those who can afford a good lawyer, may count on fair and just
proceedings. Moreover, there is no available free of charge legal aid for
the poor and socially vulnerable. Hence, a conclusion that justice is only
reachable for the rich is not far from the truth.
Speaking about the judiciary in Bosnia and Herzegovina, one is struck by
the fact that organised crime is almost not processed at all, despite the
fact that the media is saturated with information related to this
phenomenon. Prosecution seems not to react to this form of crime, thus undermining
the reputation of the judiciary and citizens’ confidence in the judiciary
system as a whole.
THE JURISIC CASE
The gap created by expiry of the Rome Rules of the Road was reflected most
directly on the freedom of movement in the region in the case of a Bosnian
citizen, Ilija Jurisic, who was arrested on 11 May 2007 at the Belgrade
airport in the Republic of Serbia under suspicion that he had committed
war crimes in Tuzla in 1992.
The Rules of the Road had stipulated that every indictment for war crimes
committed on the territory of former Yugoslavia be examined by the Hague
Tribunal, which was entrusted with deciding whether to keep the case under
its jurisdiction or to delegate it to judiciaries of countries of the
region. The intention was to prevent authorities of countries of the
region to abuse pursuit of war crimes suspects for political purposes.
This way, the case of “Tuzla Convoy”, in which the name of Ilija Jurisic
was mentioned, was returned to the judiciary of Bosnia and Herzegovina after
analysis by the Hague Tribunal, which determined the powers for judicial
Unfortunately, the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina has not
done almost anything with this case since then. The order for
investigation of the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina
followed three days after Jurisic’s arrest in Belgrade, which constituted
delay of three and a half years since the time the case was returned to
From the analysis of the whole case, it became absolutely evident that
Ilija Jurisic was deprived of the right to a fair and just procedure, that
he is a double victim: of the inertia of Bosnian prosecution service and
authorities, and of the ignorant attitude of Serbian judicial bodies
regarding conventions regulating this issue. Documents show that parallel
investigations in the case of “Tuzla Convoy” are currently being conducted
both in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. This was surely contributed to
by the lack of bilateral agreements between Serbia and Bosnia and
Analysis has further shown that the International Convention on Transfer
of Proceedings in Criminal Matters (Articles 30 and 31), signed both by
Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, has been violated.
The latest intervention of the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and
Herzegovina from 18 January 2008 also shows persistent refusal of judicial
bodies of the Republic of Serbia to comply with provisions of the
International Convention on Transfer of Proceedings in Criminal Matters.
Namely, the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina – the War Crimes
Department sent a letter to the Belgrade District Court – the War Crimes
Council, requesting transfer of the Jurisic case, claiming that the
criminal procedure in Belgrade and the order for investigation against 11
persons, including Jurisic, demonstrate the plurality of criminal
proceedings related to one and the same event.
It should be added that Serbian investigation bodies, without trying to
reach suspects by referring to the agreement between Serbia and Bosnia and
Herzegovina, issued international warrants for arrest, which has affected
restrictions of the freedom of movement in region even more.
Launching of a consultative procedure in this case is necessary due to the
principle ne bis in idem, which aims at preventing anyone being accused
and put on trial more than once for one criminal act.
Considering the appeal of Ilija Jurisic’s lawyer, and a request of the
Ministry of Justice of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Supreme Court of Serbia
abolished the decision of the Belgrade District Court rejecting request of
the Ministry of Justice of Bosnia and Herzegovina for transfer of the
Ilija Jurisic case. By returning the case to the first instance court for
repeated ruling, the Supreme Court warned the Belgrade District Court to
bear in mind the fact that the criminal act was committed on the territory
of Bosnia and Herzegovina and that criminal procedure was launched for the
same case in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Despite the fact that the District
Court referred to the Article 538 of the Criminal Procedure Code of
Serbia, the Supreme Court judged that this article refers to criminal acts
committed on the territory of Serbia by aliens residing in other
countries. The Belgrade District Court, however, totally ignored the
recommendations of the Serbian Supreme Court. It is perfectly clear that
this whole case has been politicised and that Serbian judicial bodies are
violating their own regulations too.
That Bosnia and Herzegovina does not have established mechanisms for
protection of its citizens in situations of their arrest abroad is
confirmed by the fact that an official delegation of the Parliamentary
Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina visited Ilija Jurisic in prison eight
months after his arrest, and then met representatives of Serbian
Regardless of the fact that Ilija Jurisic is of poor medical condition,
the Belgrade District Court continuously rejects the possibility of his
release and defence from outside detention, despite the fact that the
suspect expressed readiness to remain available to Serbian judicial bodies
by accepting some kind of house arrest in his son’s apartment in Belgrade.
Analysis of the case documents also revealed that personal data of citizens
of Bosnia and Herzegovina are not protected in line with international
documents regulating this field. Namely, Jurisic’s data were delivered to
Serbia from the CIPS base through institutions of Republika Srpska without
knowledge of the state bodies of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
STATUS OF FOREIGNERS, ASYLUM SEEKERS AND CITIZENSHIP
The State Commission for revision of decisions on naturalisation of
foreign citizens comprising eight members was established under the BiH
Council of Ministers' decision of 16 February 2006. Of this number, six
are local and three international representatives. The Commission’s
mandate expires in mid- February.
During its two-year mandate, the Commission reviewed citizenships issued
to persons of foreign origin outside the borders of the former Yugoslavia.
The total of 1,244 cases were reviewed. The Commission decided to withdraw
661 citizenships acquired from 6 April 1992 to the end of 1995 by persons
of Afro-Asian origin mostly.
In the spirit of the effective law, such persons are considered to be
foreigners and are obliged to report to the Foreign Nationals Service
within 15 days from the receipt of the pertinent decision, i.e. its
publication in the BiH Official Gazette, in order to regulate their
status. Thus far, 15 of them submitted claims, whereas a large number of
these persons, who are in possession of CIPS documents, seem to be outside
According to information supplied by Dragan Mektić, the Head of the
Service for Foreign Nationals, of 15 received claims, four were resolved
positively, i.e., stay in the country was approved based on the marriage
with BiH citizens. The same number of applications was rejected and
appeals lodged against such decisions are being currently processed as administrative
disputes. If these appeals are rejected, such persons may apply for
The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in BiH have warned by means of
public statements on several occasions that citizenship removal procedure
requires responsible and very serious approach, particularly from the
aspect of human rights. Competent authorities were requested to provide a
legal framework to guarantee that decisions on removal of citizenship will
be made based on international standards and in accord with principles of
a fair process, and to ensure procedural protection, including the
right to appeal. Letters of this content were forwarded to the pertinent
minister and a number of other civil servants involved in the process of
revision of citizenships. For example, the Court of BiH accepted the
appeal by Kamel Ben Karraya
who was stripped of his BiH citizenship by the State Commission for
revision of decisions on naturalisation of foreign nationals. The work of
the State Commission is well depicted by the position taken in the
mentioned court decision that the disputed Commission’s decision is based
on --- “erroneously ascertained facts” and on “flawed application of
substantive law “
The Helsinki Committee also requested from the BiH authorities not to
deport, extradite or in other way transfer persons stripped of citizenship
to any country where such persons may be exposed to a risk of violation of
their human rights, including death sentence, torture or inhumane or
degrading treatment and punishment. That would constitute a violation of
the Article 3 of the European Convention and it would lead to direct
responsibility of the country carrying out such deportation.
Only one person was deported in 2007, the Algerian national Matau Mimun.
The public have been informed through the media that a large number of
citizens who were stripped of citizenship are soon to be deported.
As to cases of naturalisation processed or finalised by the State Court of
BiH, it is rather typical that appeals are mostly filed by foreigners of
Afro-Asian origin (only three persons out of 40 naturalisation cases are
not of the said origin). Some of them addressed the Helsinki Committee for
Human Rights in BiH and requested protection of their rights.
The Court of BiH has received the total of 40 cases of naturalisation by
the end of 2007. In 2006, six cases were registered with this court and 34
cases in 2007. Four cases were resolved in 2006, and three cases of
naturalisation in 2007 - the total of seven.
Of seven cases resolved thus far, appeals were granted in two cases and
referred back to a decision making body of the administrative act for
re-examination, in five cases appeals were rejected i.e., the decisions
It is important to note that once the Court of BiH makes a decision, a
rejected asylum seeker has an opportunity to address the Constitutional
Court if deemed that his rights arising from the European Convention on
Human Rights and Fundamental Rights have been violated. By virtue of
a temporary measure, the Constitutional Court may suspend the actual
All requests for a temporary measure have been rejected thus far.
The question is raised whether addressing of the Constitutional Court is
actually an effective legal remedy; namely, would it be more efficient to
address the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg based on the
A group of citizens originating from Kosovo addressed the Helsinki
Committee for Human Rights Legal Aid Office and requested protection of
their rights due to inability to regulate their status - to obtain
residence permits to stay in BiH, and inability to register their
purchased property in land registers, which would help them meet required
conditions and be granted residence permits for BiH.
Upon arrival to Bosnia and Herzegovina, after the eruption of armed
conflict in Kosovo in 1998/99, most of them were granted a status of
temporary shelter. Of the overall number of 3,055 registered persons,
including those who were placed in camps, some 2,000 of them purchased
houses and flats in BiH in the meantime. However, only fifty percent of
them managed to regulate their ownership rights or be granted citizenship.
In the absence of adequate legal regulations, they could only do it, to quote
one of the applicants who requested protection of his rights with the
Legal Aid Office of the Helsinki Committee, Bulja Ferid, “through some
The remaining 1,000 persons who purchased property do not see a way out of
the present situation. The Helsinki Committee has continually monitored
the process of status resolution of this group of applicants and, in its
annual report for 2006, and in reports of previous years, expressed
concern with the years’ long inactivity in taking measures on resolution
of the status of this group. Members of the Committee held a number of
meetings with competent ministries on this subject, and discussed the
difficult situation of these persons kept in inadequate camps.
Even after nine years, it appears that the state does not have a solution
for persons from Kosovo who were granted temporary shelter until 30
September 2007. The BiH Council of Ministers should use its powers to
urgently pass a decision on regulation of the status of temporarily
received persons. Otherwise, a large group of people will be faced with
In the course of processing of cases, the Legal Aid Office grouped persons
with unresolved status into two categories:
The first category constitutes persons accommodated in camps and mostly of
Roma nationality. They are also asylum seekers. The second category
comprises persons who have already integrated into the community to a
certain extent. These persons enjoy private accommodation - upon arrival
to BiH most of these persons purchased flats or houses, they have their
own income (personal pension or similar), and actually these persons never
exercised their rights arising from the status of persons with temporary
shelter. Thus, the state did not incur any cost for the stay of these
persons. However, the court does not allow these persons to register their
property in land books, which is in contradiction with the Law on Land
Registries and Art. 1 of Protocol I to the European Convention.
It is also typical for some persons from the second category, around 1,000
of them, that they declare themselves as Bosniaks, that currently they
regulate their status by the so-called white cards, and that they actually
wish to have dual citizenship. They do not wish that their status be
resolved as the status of foreigners or asylum seekers.
It is common for both categories that, as persons with temporary shelter,
mostly placed in camps, they have been driven to the situation of possible
deportation after expiry of the deadline of 30 September 2007.
We have repeatedly pointed to the fact that these groups of citizens are
in a discriminatory situation. Under international standards, the status
of persons in under temporary reception is limited to three years.
Unfortunately, even after nine years, the problem of these people has not
been resolved. The state does not have legal solutions and hence their
status is humiliating.
On 1 December 2005, the BiH Ministry of Security announced a possibility
of change in the status of these persons, in particular persons under
temporary reception placed in camps, mostly Roma persons, into asylum
seekers. The procedure is still under way, and their applications reviewed
as asylum requests. However, not a single asylum seeker has received a
positive answer until the present day. Other measures to resolve the
status of these persons were not undertaken at all by other competent
It would be necessary for the Council of Ministers to make an urgent
decision, within the scope of its powers, on the status of persons in
temporary shelter care after 30 September 2007, either by extension or in
some other way.
An overall number of 145 asylum requests for 568 persons were made in
2007. Not a single application was accepted, 48 were rejected, and
procedures in 21 cases were stopped because asylum seekers did not show up
for registration or an interview, while proceedings are under way in 97
cases. It is incredible that the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina has not
allowed a single asylum request ever since the time of acquisition of its
All asylum seekers are placed in the camps Salakovac and Rakovica. We have
to note that asylum seekers were transferred from the camp Petrovac to the
other two camps in order to reduce costs. At present, the
camp Rakovica is designated for asylum seekers exclusively and 175 persons
are accommodated there. The construction of an asylum centre should begin
towards the end of 2008.
Persons with recognised refugee status until 2008 are placed in Salakovac.
This is the total of 250 persons. The total of 61 per cent of these
persons declared themselves as Bosniacs, 21 per cent are Roma, 7 per cent
ethnic Albanians and others. They all originate from Kosovo.
The Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees has not issued decisions on
recognised rights to this group of recognised refugees. Thus, these
persons are being deprived of their right to legal remedy, which is in
contradiction with the EU directive. This issue needs to be resolved
urgently by new legislative proposals still waiting to be adopted by the
An initiative was launched by the state to allocate some funds to
stimulate voluntary return of such persons. However, their security is not
being taken into consideration. For example, Roma persons who helped Serbs
would most certainly be exposed to danger if forcibly returned to Kosovo.
The system of education in BiH is divided to a great extent. Children
of school age are separated on ethnic grounds, and frequently on the
grounds of political affiliation of their parents as well. Thus,
open segregation and apartheid are present in practice.
In the post-war period, Bosnia and Herzegovina
embarked on the process of reform of the educational system based on the
document “A message to citizens of BiH - Reform of Education in BiH”,
signed by all ministers of education at the Peace Implementation Council’s
meeting in Brussels in 2002. This document was accepted and signed by all
educational authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The goal of educational
reform was to ensure good quality education for every child in integrated,
multicultural schools at all levels, free from political, religious,
cultural and other prejudices and discrimination, while maintaining
respect for the rights of all children.
The Framework Law on Elementary and Secondary
Education in Bosnia and Herzegovina of 2003 regulates principles of
pre-school, elementary and secondary education and up-bringing, as well as
adult education and establishment and functioning of educational
institutions for additional classes for children of BiH nationals abroad.
The said law, inter alia, regulates general educational goals as
universal values of a democratic society, derived from generally accepted
values based on specifics of national, historical, cultural and religious
traditions of peoples and national minorities living in BiH. The first
objective in education is to “enable access to knowledge as the basis for
understanding oneself, others and the world in which children live, and
the final objective being to join European integration process”.
All laws in the entities, cantons and the
Brčko District, as well as other regulations in the area of
education, should have been harmonised with provisions of the mentioned
law within three months, which would complete the legal framework.
However, harmonisation of the existing and drafting of new by-laws in the
area of education to facilitate faster implementation of principles and
objectives, have not been completed yet.
The Framework Law on Elementary and Secondary
Education foresees a mechanism for setting up of an Agency for pre-school,
elementary and secondary education in BiH. This agency would be tasked
with coordination, follow up and research processes in the BiH educational
system. This mechanism should have been regulated under a separate law on
the agency. Pre-school education and professional development and training
are envisaged as separate legal areas too, but pertinent regulations have
not been adopted yet. The Law on Higher Education was adopted as late as
Returnees’ children in pre-war places of
residence should have been given all assistance for enrolment, attendance
and continuation of education. The Office of the High Representative
together with the BiH authorities adopted a temporary agreement on meeting
of special needs and rights of children-returnees (2002), therein defining
six key objectives to ensure sustainable return to former places of
One of the objectives was to “enable
children-returnees to attend classes of the so-called “national group of
teaching subjects” according to curricula and syllabi of their choice,
whereas other teaching subjects will be taught according to local
In reality, the stated objective was differently
interpreted and applied by politicians and the BiH authorities.
Consequently, this led to the situation that we have fifty four schools
called “two schools under the same roof”. Namely, under this practice
children are separated in schools based on ethnic and religious
affiliation or belonging to one of the constituent peoples.
The entire curricula and syllabi are taught in
Croatian for students of Croat ethnicity, and in the Bosnian language for
students of Bosniac ethnicity in the mentioned 54 schools. The same is
true for teachers. In schools organised in this way, students and teachers
do not have any physical contact, they use separate entrance to school
facilities, classes are held in different shifts, divided between
different floors, etc,
Due to this situation, children are prevented from learning about “the
other and different”, which is in direct opposition to general educational
goals set forth under the Law on Elementary and Secondary Education, and
all international documents pertaining to this area.
Politicians justify this practice of conducting classes based on two
school curricula and syllabi by claiming to wish to preserve “the rights
to one’s own culture and language”.
The MP’s caucus of Croat people submitted an
application with the BiH Federation Constitutional Court requesting that
“protection of vital national interests be guaranteed in education
exclusively by curricula and syllabi in the Croatian language”.
The BiH Federation
Constitutional Court determined that “disputed provisions of the Law do
not bring any of constituent peoples into an unequal position, nor do they
lead to assimilation or outvoting of individual peoples”. Any other
solution, for example, a possibility for classes to be conducted
exclusively in the Croatian, Bosnian, or Serb languages, would constitute
a violation of the constitutional principle on equality of all official
languages in the BiH Federation and lead to violation of vital interests
of constituent peoples, i.e. of those peoples whose languages would not be
used for teaching classes”.
schools or classes in which students are divided on ethnic grounds are not
a guarantee for development of universal democratic values. But consistent
curricula and scientific programs, adequate textbooks and competent
teachers, adequate teaching tools and training of all actors in the
education process, would be the best prerequisites for creation of a
society based on the rule of law and respect for human rights.
It should be noted that some progress has been made in the educational
system through adequate co-ordination between 14 ministers of education.
Thus, discriminatory symbols in schools and disturbing school names were
removed. However, such efforts should be continued throughout the entire
country and in all schools, as to fully observe this criterion. Also,
steps were taken to provide common history and geography textbooks for
students, and to formulate a single curriculum and syllabus core, as well
as to define the rights of teachers and students to use their own
language. All adopted legal projects, action plans and programs, as well
as responsibilities of Bosnia and Herzegovina in terms of international
standards in the area of education, have yielded only partial results in
Therefore, all actors in the educational process, as well as professional
and academic communities, have to invest greater efforts and resolve
problems related to a fundamental educational reform by a coordinating
action. Primarily the practice of “two schools under the same roof” should
be abandoned as to ensure that children are not isolated from others and
different ones. In this way, conditions will be created for better
understanding and communication with their neighbours, as well as other
citizens of a united Europe that we aspire to.
Women in Bosnia and Herzegovina continue to be exposed to various forms of
discrimination and facing many obstacles in exercising of their rights.
Although they constitute over a half of the world’s population, women have
not been represented in such percentages in processes of making of
political decisions, and political and economic reforms. The government at
the state level in Bosnia and Herzegovina does not have a single female
minister, while only two women hold positions of deputy ministers. Of the
42 deputies to the House of Representatives of the BiH Parliamentary
Assembly, six are women. Of the 15 members of the High Judicial and
Prosecutorial Council, six are women, while the Court of Bosnia and
Herzegovina employs nine women among 23 judges. There is not a single
woman holding a high level position in the police, military structures and
the state border service.
Women have not had equal opportunities for full participation in many
other spheres of social and economic life either. Among the total number
of employed persons, 38 per cent are women. Mobbing at workplace, sexual
harassment, psychological harassment, unequal pay, all of these represent
forms of discrimination and marginalization of women in all working
environments – from administration bodies, public institutions, public
companies, to private firms.
The following cases can serve illustrations:
A female person gets an offer from her employer to meet him for a coffee
after working hours in order for them to get to know each other better and
discuss possibilities for her professional advancement. As she turns down
this offer, she is the first to be dismissed from work with justification
that the company is undergoing bankruptcy procedure;
A female person has worked on most simple jobs in her company since 1992,
and her female boss forces her to take sick leave after regular medical
check-up. After she had brought her medical results, which were
satisfactory, the boss resorts to other humiliating means to force this
person to request retirement;
A female person has resigned due to harassment at work. She has addressed
the labour inspection, which has not done anything. She filed a lawsuit
with the competent cantonal court also. The court established that “there
has been harassment, but that there is no means to punish the abuser, as
he has not acted as an official in the legal sense of the word, i.e. he
has not been appointed or elected, and his actions therefore do not
constitute significant features of the said criminal act”. This woman
ended up under psychiatric care.
Women’s access to work has been more difficult that men’s: 34.9 per cent
of women are unemployed, while over 60 per cent are not covered with
health insurance. The position of Roma women is particularly difficult –
90 per cent of them do not have any access to health care, social
protection, employment. Women living in villages do not have a better status
There are no measures and plans for resolving of these problems, or
programmes for employment of women, at the levels of the state, the
entities or the Brcko District.
Particular problems of the Bosnian reality are trafficking of women with
the aim of sexual exploitation, and domestic violence. As regards the
trafficking in women, it is a fact that local female population, including
underage girls, have been increasingly recruited through this criminal
Non-governmental organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina have established
shelters for victims of violence, i.e. safe houses for victims of
trafficking. These houses are located in Mostar, Bijeljina, Modrica, Banja
Luka, Bihac, Sarajevo and Zenica. SOS phones for victims of violence have
been set up too and are available 24 hours a day.
The SOS line in Sarajevo registered 822 calls in 2007, while 113 persons
used the shelter accommodation: 41 women, 55 children, 14 young single
girls, and two female foreign nationals with one child.
In Bihac, 98 persons found shelter in the safe house during the same
period: 45 women and 45 children, eight underage girls – victims of
trafficking, including two from Croatia. Two men had also sought help.
Six Bosnian citizens, victims of trafficking, and nine victims of domestic
violence found shelter in the Mostar safe house.
The total of 92 women and 114 children, 18 without parental care, were
accommodated in the Modrica safe house.
Four victims of trafficking in humans were registered over the past period
in Bijeljina, including two underage girls from Bosnia and Herzegovina,
and two foreign nationals (from Serbia and Ukraine).
is only an illustration of the frequency of domestic violence and human
trafficking in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It should, however, be taken into
account that a considerable number of these cases remains unreported.
Domestic violence against women mostly remains inside the families. The
causes of silence are the patriarchal tradition, fear of local
denunciation, and stereotypes about the place and role of women in the
society, as well as threats by the abuser or his family, etc.
A telling example is the case of a female person married to an alcoholic,
who physically abuses her and her 18 months’ old daughter on daily basis.
His parents and brother are threatening to take away her child if she
addresses anyone for help or tells someone what is happening in that
family, and that “she could disappear in the dark”.
Women’s human rights and gender equality do not represent, for political
leaders and the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, issues that should
be seriously addressed from the aspect of meeting of international
requirements and provisions of local constitutions.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, as a signatory of the UN Convention on Elimination
of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, has received a series of
recommendations and proposals for measures that should be undertaken.
The competent UN committee has expressed concern with, among other things,
insufficient representation of women in processes of decision-making, and
insufficient representation of women in executive-legislative bodies and
administration bodies, public companies, and leadership of political
parties, as well as with issues of employment, access to health care and
The committee expressed concern with the issue of trafficking of women
too, despite the fact that a number of legal and other measures have been
taken in order to eradicate human trafficking.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has taken up the obligation of implementing the
goals from the Millennium Declaration – a political document of the UN,
which, among other things, advocates gender equality and strengthening of
the position of women. According to this document, poverty reduction, more
comprehensive education, health care improvement, fight against HIV/AIDS
and other diseases, environment protection and improvement of global
partnership for development largely depend on improvement of the status of
Protocol 12 to the European Convention for Protection of Human Rights and
Fundamental Freedoms regulates prohibition of discrimination on grounds of
sex, while the Recommendation (2003/3) on Balanced Representation of Women
and Men in Political and Public Decision-Making, and the Resolution 176
(2004), which introduces the principles of gender equality at the local
and regional levels, are anti-discrimination documents and fundaments of
legislation of the European Union member states.
The Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina prohibits all forms of
discrimination, including discrimination on grounds of sex. The Law on
Gender Equality of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which defines the ways of
protection from discrimination based on sex and provides a framework for
equal opportunities for women and men, has been adopted, while the
entities’ legislation (of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and
Republika Srpska) on protection from domestic violence regulate, among
other things, protection measures for victims of violence. Criminal
legislation treats domestic violence as a criminal act, while the labour
legislation prohibits discrimination too.
Institutional mechanisms have been set up for protection and promotion of
gender equality and monitoring of equal treatment of women and men. At the
state level, there are the Commission for Equality of the Parliamentary
Assembly, the Gender Equality Agency of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia
and Herzegovina, the State Coordinator for Fight against Trafficking in
Humans and Illegal Migration. At the entity level and in local
communities, there are coordination mechanisms for gender equality.
Evidently, these institutions have not been efficient enough so far in the
areas of responsibility for which they had been established.
Based on review of the human rights situation, the Helsinki Committee
for Human Rights hereby proposes to the BiH authorities the
To the BiH Federation Prime Minister, to undertake measures to harmonise
the Law on the Rights of Ex-soldiers and Their Families and the Law on
Civil Service in the BiH Federation with decisions of the BiH Federation
To the RS Prime Minister Milorad Dodik, to observe provisions of the RS
Constitution which guarantee the right to freedom of expression,
association and peaceful gathering. We hereby appeal to Prime Minister
Dodik to stop pressuring and intimidating the non-governmental sector,
independent media and journalists;
To the BiH Parliamentary Assembly, to complete the process of
transformation of the ombudsmen institutions for BiH. It is necessary to
ensure a democratic procedure in the process of ombudsmen selection, as a
guarantee that competent, respectful and independent individuals with high
moral integrity are selected for this position.
To the Ministry for Human Rights, Refugees and Asylum, to introduce
concrete measure and time framework for their implementation as to enable
return of all persons who wish to return, while demonstrating the respect
for the right to choose a place of residence.
To the Directorate for European Integration, Council of Ministers and the
BiH Parliamentary Assembly, to formulate a plan containing measures for
the implementation of the part of the Copenhagen document pertaining to EU
requirements for future members in the area of human rights.
We appeal to authorities at all levels to be more open towards actors of
civil society and to enhance co-operation with non-governmental sector.
Sarajevo, December 2007
 Decision No. U-844/07 of 10.01.2008.
 A temporary measure implies that a person who invoked
this regulation must not be deported prior to court's decision and
only if there is a risk of irreparable damage, i.e. non application of Article
3 and exceptionally Article 6 of the European Convention.
Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg adopted a decision on temporary
prohibition of expulsion of Imad el-Husin, better know as Abu Hamza (Ap. no 3727/08
of 29 January 2008), an applicant who requested protection of his rights with
the Helsinki Committee in BiH. The temporary measure on prohibition of
expulsion will be in effect seven days after Abu Hamza is handed a final
decision by the BiH Constitutional Court that is reviewing his appellation.
(No. AP 1222/07).
Statistics Agency information.
obtained from the organizations: „Budućnost“, Modriča; „Žene sa Une“,
Bihać; „AD Barselona“, Sarajevo; „Lara“, Bijeljina, and „Žena BiH“,