Human Rights Court says Bosnia Discriminates

Bosnia’s constitution discriminates against Jews and Roma by barring them from running for parliament and presidency based on their ethnic identity, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday.

The Strasbourg-based court issued its binding decision in response to a complaint filed by Dervo Sejdic, an official of an umbrella body for Roma in Bosnia, and Jakob Finci, Bosnia’s ambassador to Switzerland and the leader of the country’s Jewish community.

The court said in a statement that Finci presented written confirmation from Bosnia’s election commission that he was ineligible to stand for presidency or parliament’s upper house because of his Jewish origin.

Under Bosnia’s constitution, which was a part of the Dayton peace agreement that ended the country’s 1992-95 war, the presidency and parliament posts are off-limits to members of minority groups.

The agreement divided Bosnia into two highly independent entities – the Serb dominated Republika Srpska and the Bosniak-Croat Federation – linked through weak central institutions.

Under the constitution, Bosnia’s tripartite presidency consists of one Bosniak, one Croat and one Serb. The president and two vice-presidents in the two entities are elected on similar basis. Parallel arrangements apply to other senior appointments, the objective being to ensure equal representation of the three constituent peoples.

Serbs from the Federation and Bosniaks and Croats from Republika Srpska are also banned from running for the posts reserved for their respective ethnic groups in the central institutions.

Finci welcomed the ruling, saying it was ‘not against, but rather in favor’ of Bosnia.

“It has been confirmed that our constitution and electoral system are not in line with the European Human Rights Convention and it is now up to us to correct it,” Finci told the Oslobodjenje daily.

“The most important thing is that we can now ensure that all citizens…will enjoy equal rights,” he added.

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