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Reforms after bank refused to pay out pensioner’s savings

Jeličić v. Bosnia and Herzegovina  | 2006

Reforms after bank refused to pay out pensioner’s savings

This is horrible. I do not even know how I am able to talk to you. I'm constantly medicated. I’m up to my neck in debt. My foreign currency savings account has been blocked and since then I am not employed, I do not receive my pension and my husband has died.

Ruža Jeličić, as reported by Radio Free Liberty

Background

Ruža Jeličić was a citizen of the former Yugoslavia. In the 1970s and 80s she lived and worked in Germany, in order to save money. She deposited her savings of German marks in a bank account in her home country.

Mrs Jeličić returned home to live off the money that she had earnt. However, in the late 1980s the former Yugoslavia experienced a financial crisis. With the banking system on the verge of collapse, a law was passed banning individuals from withdrawing money from accounts containing foreign currency. Along with thousands of others, Mrs Jeličić was banned from accessing her savings.

According to Mrs Jeličić, the loss of her money left her without sufficient financial support. Her husband died and she no longer worked, but she had no pension after her foreign currency savings were blocked.

In 1998 the courts ordered that the bank would have to pay Mrs Jeličić her money. However, the bank refused to comply with the court order and the authorities refused to enforce it. The money later became a public debt, but the authorities still refused to pay it back.  

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The European court found that the national courts of Bosnia and Herzegovina had ordered the money to be paid back to Mrs Jeličić – yet the authorities had still refused to pay. The authorities’ refusal to comply had violated Mrs Jeličić’s right to have judgments properly enforced, and breached her right to property.

Follow-up

In July 2007 Mrs Jeličić was paid back all of her lost savings.

The authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina introduced a series of measures to help people get back their old foreign currency savings when this has been ordered by a national court.

The law which had previously prevented the enforcement of court decisions about old foreign currency savings was abolished. The authorities also introduced an action plan to make sure that all past court decisions were enforced and that the necessary funds were available for payment.

By 2012, old foreign currency savings had been repaid in the vast majority of those cases where the authorities had been made aware of a judgment ordering a repayment.