Orlović and others v. Bosnia and Herzegovina  | 2019

Bosnian war widow wins legal battle to reclaim her family’s lost property

Fata is an ordinary hero whose bravery and courage can be respected and applauded by people worldwide.

Amela Orlović, Fata’s granddaughter, writing in Balkan Diskurs - Photo Fata Orlović (private collection)


Fata Orlović was forced to flee her home with her children because of the Bosnian war in the early 1990s. Her husband was murdered in the Srebrenica genocide, one of the darkest chapters of European history.

After the war ended, Fata and her family returned home, only to find that a church had been built on their land.

For over two decades, Fata fought tenaciously to get her family property back.

With the help of her son, she was able to regain part of the land through a special commission set up for refugees and displaced persons. In fact, the commission said that Fata’s family was legally entitled to all of the land, including the field on which the church stood. The Government later confirmed this.

But despite Fata’s demands that the church be removed, no action was taken to return the land to her and her family. She was therefore forced to take legal action.

This led to a fifteen-year legal battle which ended with Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Constitutional Court dismissing the family’s claim.

Fata, together with her children and her nieces and nephews, decided to take the fight for justice to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The European court ruled that Bosnia and Herzegovina’s very long delay in dealing with the family’s case amounted to a “clear refusal” to enforce the decisions that entitled them to their lost land.

This was in violation of the family’s property rights.

The court ordered the authorities to enforce the earlier decisions, including the removal of the church, without further delay.

...the Court notes that the Government did not offer any justification for the authorities’ inaction in the present case.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, October 2019


Fata’s long legal battle finally came to an end in June 2021, when, in response to the European court’s judgment, Bosnia and Herzegovina removed the church from her family’s land.


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