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Minority Rights Group International (MRG) Calls Upon Bosnian Political Leaders to Find a Solution to Implement the Sejdić-Finci Judgment

30 September 2013

As key political leaders prepare to meet in Brussels tomorrow for the third round of talks on Bosnia’s accession to the European Union, MRG reminds the Bosnian government of the importance and urgency of bringing Bosnia’s Constitution and its electoral law in line with the European Court of Human Rights’ judgment in the Sejdić and Finci case.

In a landmark decision issued in December 2009 the Court ruled that Bosnia’s Constitution is discriminatory in preventing minorities from running for the three member presidency or the upper house of the parliament. MRG represented Jakob Finci, a Jew, in the case; the other applicant, Dervo Sejdić, belongs to the Roma community.

To date, despite declared commitments from the Bosnian government that it will implement the judgment, and repeated calls of the Council of Europe (CoE) and the European Union (EU) to take such steps, Bosnia’s government has failed to act.

In view of the upcoming October 2014 elections, any further delay in implementing the judgment is of great concern. “If a second set of national elections takes place in Bosnia under a system that is considered fundamentally discriminatory by the European Court of Human Rights, it would not only undermine the legitimacy of the Court but also perpetuate an unacceptable political system,” says Lucy Claridge, MRG’s Head of Law.

Under Bosnia’s current system, membership of the three member Presidency and the upper house of the Parliament is restricted to the three “Constituent Peoples” (Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs). Other communities – including national minorities who have lived in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) for centuries – are excluded from both.

Leaders of Bosnian political parties are scheduled to meet with the European Commission (EC) in Brussels on Tuesday, 1 October 2013 for the third round of the High-level Dialogue on the Accession Process. The EC has made it clear that they expect a solution to be presented on the SejdićFinci issue. The CoE Committee of Ministers has also recently urged Bosnian political leaders “to deploy all their efforts to reach a consensus” at the meeting.

Whilst MRG welcomes these calls, we are concerned about the reported agreement made between Sulejman Tihić, the leader of the Bosniak Party of Democratic Action (SDA), and Dragan Čović, the leader of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) BiH regarding the election of the members of the Presidency.

Media accounts of the agreement state that the ethnic requirement for election to Bosnia’s Presidency would be removed, but the three member system would be kept. One President would be elected from Bosnia’s mainly Serb entity, Republika Srpska. The other main entity, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, would be divided into a Croat-dominated and a Bosniak-dominated electoral area, with one President likely to be elected from each. No more than one member of the Presidency would be able belong at the same time to the same Constituent People or the group of “Others.”

“These proposed amendments do not provide any solution to the SejdićFinci issue but instead seek to maintain the status-quo. In practice, a Bosniak and a Croat from the Federation, and a Serb from the Republika Srpska, would be most likely to be elected as members of the Presidency,” says Srđan Dizdarević, the Chair of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in BiH.

“Any agreement that might remove the direct discrimination but result in a system that continues to guarantee the representation of the three Constituent Peoples in the Presidency would not comply with the Court’s judgment, as minorities would continue to have no realistic possibility of being elected into the three member Presidency,” adds Claridge. “We are also concerned that the process by which this agreement is being reached does not appear to have involved any consultation with minorities: those whose participation the Court’s judgment seeks to protect”.

For more information, contact the MRG Press Office on [email protected].