Not a decade after the Human Rights Court declared constitutional provisions discriminatory, those provisions have not been amended.
Bosnia and Herzegovina have made little progress in improving human rights protection in 2019, according to a new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report.
“Not a decade after the Constitutional Court declared the constitutional provisions discriminatory, those provisions have not been modified. Media freedom is still threatened, and war crimes prosecutions are slow,” the HRW report said.
The organization said in a report on the human rights situation in the world that BiH is failing to protect women from gender-based violence or hold most of those responsible to account.
HRW states that holding the first Pride parade in Sarajevo was a positive event, but warns that LGBT people continue to face discrimination and violence.
The organization recalls that in December 2019, it was 10 years since the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the Sejdić-Finci case, which found that the Bosnian Constitution discriminated against ethnic and religious minorities by not allowing them to run for president. In the decade following this ruling, the Court found similar constitutional violations in three other cases, but the Constitution remained unchanged.
They recall that the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) registered 109 hate crime cases between January and September 2019, 66.6 percent of which were based on religion or ethnic origin.
HRW states that the number of asylum seekers and migrants arriving in Bosnia and Herzegovina has increased. Between January and August 2019, the Aliens Office registered 18,071 new asylum seekers, which is 5,000 more than the same period last year.
In the first half of 2019, a total of 17,165 persons expressed their intention to seek asylum. Of these, only 426 indeed applied for asylum during that period. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), this process is being delayed by very short application deadlines and the state’s limited capacity to process applications.
“At the time of writing, there was only one state-run asylum center in BiH and six temporary accommodation centers with a total capacity of about 4,000 people, an improvement over 2018, but there are still thousands of people without access to accommodation and basic services, ” the report said.
The organization states that as part of the housing construction program, 1,000 housing units have been built for 96,421 BiH citizens internally displaced since the 1990s war. According to the authorities, this will enable the displacement of eight of the 121 active collective centers in which IDPs still reside today.
With regard to the prosecution of war crimes cases, HRW states that there has been no step forward in 2019, as the revised National War Crimes Processing Strategy to improve the allocation of cases among courts is awaiting approval by the Council of Ministers from February 2018.
A positive example is the signing of an agreement with Serbia and Croatia in July 2019, which facilitates better cooperation in the search for missing persons from the wars during the 1990s.
HRW states that women continue to be exposed to domestic violence and employment discrimination and that they are under-represented in political life.
According to the HRW report, BiH journalists continue to face the problem of interfering with their work. Since August 2019, the BH Journalists Association has recorded 41 violations of journalists’ rights, including three verbal threats, eight cases of political pressure, six physical assaults and five death threats.
HRW recalls that in February the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling on BiH to address a number of human rights issues and to pass a law on restitution and compensation for property confiscated in the past.