Past Programmes and Evaluations

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Supporting minority victims of discrimination accessing their human rights

Past Programme / Evaluation |

Duration: February 2013 to February 2016

Regions/countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina

Minorities: 17 recognized national minorities (Albanians, Czechs, Germans, Hungarians, Italians, Jews, Macedonians, Montenegrins, Poles, Roma, Romanians, Russians, Ruthenians, Slovaks, Slovenians, Turks and Ukrainians) and constituent peoples (Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs) in a minority situation.

Lead organization: MRG

More information in Bosnian: Više informacija na Bosanskom

What was this programme about?

The aim of the project was to reduce discrimination faced by minority communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). We aimed to build the capacity of and strengthen networking among minority representatives, civil society organizations, the legal community and relevant socio-economic actors, supporting them to advocate for effective implementation of the anti-discrimination law guaranteeing minority rights.

Why did we deliver this programme?

The word “minority” in Bosnia and Herzegovina is laden with political meaning. The political system of BiH is structured in a way that promotes ethnic domination by territory. According to its Constitution, the country is divided into two main entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (predominantly Bosniak and Croat) and the Republika Srpska (predominantly Serb). The Federation is further divided into ten cantons where usually either Croats or Bosniaks form a numerical majority. The north-eastern district of Brčko, hotly contested during the war in the early 1990s, belongs to neither entity and is under separate administration.

The Constitution of BiH also explicitly differentiates between and assigns different rights to “Constituent peoples” (citizens identifying as Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs) and “Others”. The category of “Others” is used to designate non-constituent citizens of BiH, including national minorities. “Others” are not entitled to stand and vote for certain high offices, seriously hampering their ability to participate and be represented in the political and democratic process. Furthermore, “Constituent peoples” themselves are victims of similar discrimination when they live in the “wrong” administrative entity.

In 2010, the European Court of Human Rights, in the case of Sejdic and Finci v Bosnia and Herzegovina, ruled that the exclusion of citizens not belonging to the three “Constituent peoples” from being elected to the Presidency and the House of Peoples violated Protocol No. 12 and Article 14, taken in conjunction with Article 3 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights. While the decision of the Court prompted a series of high-level meetings and discussions, the government still has not implemented the decision by removing the discriminatory provisions of the Constitution and the electoral law.

Legitimized by the political system itself, ethnic divisions have pervaded all spheres of public life, and the discrimination inherent in the political structure reinforces discrimination against minorities in access to education, employment, health care, housing and other social and public services. Minority returnees and the Roma are the most disadvantaged groups. Minority returnees continue to face ethnic discrimination in public and private employment, and access to health care, pensions and other social services, restitution of property and allocation of reconstruction assistance. Roma, the largest national minority, remains the most vulnerable minority group, subject to widespread discrimination and marginalization.

What did we do?

  • Establish a national anti-discrimination coalition, comprising at least 50 human rights organizations, activists and relevant socio-economic actors.
  • Hold annual network meetings for the anti-discrimination coalition members.
  • Train minority rights activists on anti-discrimination law and related advocacy.
  • Carry out field work supporting minority activists in identifying, monitoring and addressing discrimination.
  • Publish an online advocacy briefing on the situation of minorities and discrimination they face.
  • Provide legal aid in discrimination cases through “virtual” legal aid stations in 25 municipalities across BiH.
  • Litigate strategic cases.
  • Coordinate local awareness campaigns on minority issues and discrimination.
  • Develop positive relationships between minority communities and journalists.
  • Carry out video advocacy campaigns.
  • Hold advocacy round table events to highlight specific issues faced by minority communities in BiH.

Who is delivered this programme with us?

Human Rights House Sarajevo is an umbrella organization based in Sarajevo aiming to strengthen civil society and democracy by promoting cooperation and coalition building among human rights organizations in BiH. It has been working with over 30 organizations since 1998.

The Serbian Civic Council-Movement for Equality – Sarajevo Canton is the canton office of the Serbian Civic Council which was established in 1994 with the aims of safeguarding a united and multi-cultural BiH and promoting parliamentary democracy and respect for human rights. In 1995, the organization received the Right Livelihood Award The Sarajevo Canton office, established in 1999, focuses on promoting equality and reconciliation and on supporting the return of refugees and IDPs (Internally Displaced Peoples).

Find out more

Read a briefing produced under the programme: Collateral Damage of the Dayton Peace Agreement: Discrimination Against Minorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Twenty Years On

Watch a series of videos documenting the everyday challenges faced by Roma in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Photo: Providing information on right to housing to members of the ADA Roma community in Čapljina, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Credit: MRG

flag_yellow_highThe project is funded by the European Union. This content is the sole responsibility of Minority Rights Group International and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.

Share this content:

Related Content
Blogs and podcasts
News from our projects
Press Releases
Law and legal cases
What we do