Open Letter: UNTIL WHEN?

In respect of the tenth year of failing to comply with the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in the Sejdić and Finci v. Bosnia and Herzegovina case, the Bosnia and Herzegovina appellants before this court, due to the constitutional discrimination, have prepared the following                                                                                                                        

Open Letter: UNTIL WHEN?            

The Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the Annex IV to the Dayton Peace Agreement reached in 1995. Since then, final judgements have been issued in five proceedings before the European Court of Human Rights (Sejdić-Finci, Pilav, Zornić, Šlaku, Baralija). One more proceeding (Pudarić) is in progress to establish discrimination and violation of fundamental human rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, which, we remind, is a part of the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina. As individuals, we have been denied the right to stand for election due to our (non) ethnicity or place of residence. The five of us have instituted court proceedings on behalf of ourselves and, accordingly, on behalf of all citizens being denied fundamental rights and freedoms (over 400,000 in the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina). Even ten years after the first judgement – nothing happens. The category named ‘Others’ still exists in the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina. They are ineligible to stand for election to the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the House of Peoples in the same way the Bosniaks and Croats from the Republika Srpska are ineligible to stand for election as the respective Bosniak and Croat member of the Presidency, or the Serbs from Federation of BiH as the Serb member. The voting right is allowed only within ‘their own’ entity. The state of Bosnia and Herzegovina has not eliminated the discrimination and implemented the rulings. It is apparent that the parties in power lack the political will to do so.

We note that the real implementation of the rulings is not a change of the place of residence or compliance with the corrupt ethnic principle, which is the basis of our constitution. The process of constitutional change has never really begun where it should take place – in the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Support for the misapprehension that Bosnia and Herzegovina may join the European Union without amending the constitutional provisions that violate the European Convention on Human Rights serves to push the obligation of the state to implement the rulings to an uncertain future as far as possible. Postponing the implementation and politicizing the constitutional discrimination by focusing on resolving other, essentially ephemeral, current political ‘issues’, accompanied with constant and overt threats of obstruction in decision making and conflicts has become the only way to discuss the constitutional amendments in Bosnia and Herzegovina. At the same time, elections take place in which the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina are deprived of their fundamental rights. Contrary to EU recommendations, Council of Europe resolutions, opinions of the Venice Commission, the primacy of the European Convention on Human Rights, and the European Court of Human Rights, the existing political system in Bosnia and Herzegovina has served for ten years now to incite and deepen the mistrust among the peoples, which prevents the country from becoming democratic. As a result, society is held hostage in a state of collective intolerance and in the lack of organised force to lead and win the struggle for the implementation of the rulings. Nothing happens in reality; it is to note that, on one hand, political oligarchies in power are hampering the implementation and, on the other hand, all parties pledge their support for the implementation. However, none of them has taken any steps towards the implementation.

The issue of constitutional discrimination is the issue having been used as an instrument of political manipulation for over a decade. In the country in which we wish to be equal citizens, we are unanimous in our attitude that the state must implement the rulings and establish equal rights for all citizens immediately.

We demand:

  1. that the issue of implementation of the ECHR rulings i.e. the elimination of discrimination in the electoral process should be separated from all other politically manipulated issues of the constitutional reform;
  2. that the implementation of the rulings is carried out through legal proceedings, as stipulated by Article 10 of the Constitution, rather than being turned into a political process;
  3. that the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina be amended through legal procedure by adopting amendments which would, following the ECHR rulings, regulate the election of members of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina so that all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina may enjoy full right to vote and stand for election regardless of their affiliation, (non) ethnicity or place of residence.

Please be reminded that time is not working in favour of an initiative to create a unified, civil Bosnia and Herzegovina that would be best suited to its citizens. The ECHR rulings should not be marking further anniversaries of the non-implementation as a reminder of the inequality of the Bosnia and Herzegovina citizens.

Signatories of the Open Letter

Azra Zornić

Jakob Finci

Svetozar Pudarić

Ilijaz Pilav

Women Citizens for Constitutional Reform

Copy to:

  • Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • House of Peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Office of the High Representative
  • Council of Europe
  • OSCE
  • European Union
  • Delegation of the European Union to Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Mr Olivér Várhelyi, European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations
  • European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission)
  • Human Rights Watch
  • European Court of Human Rights