Bosnia and Herzegovina should accelerate its efforts to establish a more just society

Strasbourg, 29/03/11 – "The legacy of the violent past still endangers the full enjoyment of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although some progress has been made, the authorities at all levels in Bosnia and Herzegovina should proceed in a determined manner towards putting an end to discrimination, fostering reconciliation and building a country that reflects its multiethnic richness," said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, publishing today a report based on his visit to the country on 27-30 November 2010.

The Commissioner remains concerned about persisting discrimination towards national minorities, stressing that "the authorities should address this problem more resolutely and make sure that national minorities have real opportunities for political representation." Furthermore, he expresses his concern that the country's complex, multi-layered political and institutional structure constitutes an impediment to equal enjoyment of social and economic rights by different categories of vulnerable people, in particular persons with disabilities, civilian war victims and victims of war-related crimes of sexual violence.

The need to enhance the protection of Roma is underlined, in particular in those sectors where they remain dramatically disadvantaged, such as education, employment, healthcare and housing. "Durable solutions should be found for the Roma who have been forcibly displaced from Kosovo* and who have lived for many years with their families in Bosnia and Herzegovina".

Widespread segregation and discrimination in public schools in Bosnia and Herzegovina remain a serious concern as well. Ethnically-based and divided education systems remain an obstacle to sustainable returns. "No progress has been made in bringing to an end the system of ‘two schools under one roof' since my visit in 2007. A common, core curriculum should be introduced, respecting the particularities of each constituent people's language, culture and heritage".

Discrimination in access to healthcare, social care and pension rights, the slow pace of demining and the lack of effective monitoring of ethnically-motivated violence remain barriers to the sustainable and safe return of internally displaced persons. "More than 7,000 people are still living in collective centres and endure extremely difficult living conditions. The authorities should provide adequate housing to the vulnerable people living in collective centres, including the elderly, and ensure access to employment and health care.

The Commissioner underlines that genuine inter-ethnic reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot be achieved without justice. He encourages the authorities to strengthen their efforts aimed at effectively investigating and prosecuting the cases relating to war atrocities, ensuring access to justice and effective domestic remedies for victims and providing them with adequate, effective and proportionate reparation.

Commissioner Hammarberg is seriously concerned by the failure of the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina to fulfil their international obligations to effectively prosecute war-related crimes of sexual violence, and to provide adequate protection and reparation to the victims of these crimes.
He also recommends ensuring that the victims receive adequate psychological and social support as well as vocational guidance.

The Commissioner further urges the authorities to considerably improve the witness protection system in the context of war-related proceedings and to promptly investigate and prosecute all reported cases of threats and intimidation of witnesses.

Finally, he recommends continuing with determination to identify about 10,000 pending cases of persons missing due to the war; taking effective measures to protect the impartiality and independence of the judicial institutions; adopting measures to improve the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and resolving the cases of the 220 police officers who were decertified in the late 1990s and providing adequate redress to those still in need of it.

The response of the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina is attached to the report.

Read the report

* "All reference to Kosovo, whether to the territory, institutions or population, in this text shall be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999) and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo."