On 22 December 2009, the European Court of Human Rights decided in favour of applications brought by members of the Roma and the Jewish communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, alleging racial and ethnic discrimination.
The case was brought because the rules of the post-Dayton Bosnian Constitution and the Election Act 2001 prevented members of these groups from standing for election to the House of Peoples and to the (collective) State Presidency. Rules which undermined the formal political equality of all citizens in Bosnia were agreed as part of the Dayton Agreement which brought the hostilities in Bosnia to an end in 1995. These provided for ethnic power-sharing in Bosnia’s state institutions, allowing participation only by self-declared members of the three constituent peoples – Bosniacs, Croats and Serbs – leaving out of account the other national and ethnic minorities such as the Roma and the Jews. The rules also adversely affect the electoral rights of members of the constituent peoples resident outside the area in which they are dominant, e.g. Serbs resident in the Bosniac/Croat entity. This lack of political equality has been one of the dominant features of the post-Dayton Bosnia, where constitutional reform has been slow to occur because of the entrenched positions of the veto players in each community. It is hoped that the Court’s judgment, the first on the free standing anti-discrimination rights enshrined in Protocol 12 to the Convention, will break the logjam of constitutional reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina and contribute to a broader renewal of the politically problematic ethnic elements of the post-Dayton settlement.
Although political participation rights as such lie outwith the main focus of the EUDO-Citizenship Observatory, the case is of interest in a citizenship context because political participation rights represent one of the main dimensions of the legal bond between citizen and state.
To read more see the following links:
A blog post by Marko Milanovic on the European Journal of International Law blog discussing the judgment.
A Press Release from the Minority Rights Group International which was one of a number of INGOs responsible for bringing the case before the European Court of Human Rights.