December 22nd marked the ten years since the landmark European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling in the Sejdić and Finci case. Unfortunately, in the decade since this ruling, nothing has changed. The people of BiH must not become inured to simply marking anniversaries without taking constructive action. To that end, BiH authorities must amend the constitution to remove discriminatory provisions in order to ensure equal rights for all citizens.
The failure to resolve discriminatory practices does not affect only Roma and Jews, or only minorities. This discrimination affects all ethnic groups. Serbs living in the Federation, Bosniaks and Croats living in Republika Srpska (RS), residents of Brčko District who wish to vote in the Federation or RS, anyone who does not want to declare membership in any one ethnic group, the people of Mostar, and all minorities throughout BiH are barred from fully participating in elections in BiH. This is unacceptable.
BiH officials must take concrete action to address the Sejdić and Finci ruling and other relevant ECHR cases. The process to do so must include input from civil society and particularly representatives from minority groups as well. As the EU Opinion from May notes, BiH must undertake genuine reforms to ensure that all citizens can effectively exercise their political rights.
Implementation of the Sejdić and Finci ruling is a human rights issue. Ensuring equal rights for minorities does not diminish the rights of others. The U.S. Embassy reiterates that respect and promotion of individual rights and fundamental freedoms is a necessary precondition for creating a stable, peaceful, and prosperous society. The U.S. Embassy stands ready to assist, but the impetus for equal rights for all must come from BiH and its people.