Baralija v. Bosnia and Herzegovina | 2019

Democracy returns to Mostar after local resident’s historic European court case

We never gave up and proved that individual actions do matter and can make the change, and in our case can bring back democracy to Mostar.

Irma Baralija, writing in 


Like other Mostar residents, Irma Baralija was unable to vote or stand in local elections because of a legal void that left the city without a functioning democracy for over a decade.

In 2010, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s constitutional court ruled that Mostar’s post-war voting arrangements were unlawful. The court told parliament to change the election law. 

But after parliament failed to act, the court invalidated certain parts of the law.

Mostar residents were unable to vote in the elections of 2012 and 2016. During this time, the city was governed by a mayor who lacked democratic legitimacy.

High-school teacher Irma Baralija, who is also active in local politics in Mostar, decided to take a case against her government 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 failure to enable democratic elections to take place in Mostar amounted to discrimination against Irma because of where she lived. 

Mostar has made the first step towards a return to democratic normality.

President of the Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, Anders Knape (Sweden, EPP-CCE)


Bosnia and Herzegovina changed the 2001 Election Act within six months of the European court’s judgment. The amendments set up a legal framework, in line with Council of Europe and OSCE/ODIHR recommendations, which enabled citizens of Mostar to vote for the city council for the first time since 2008.

Mostar held its first local elections for over a decade in December 2020, in which Irma was able to run as a candidate.