Situation of Roma in Bosnia and Herzegovina under International Scrutiny

Council of Europe Minorities Monitoring Body Concerned at "Serious Problems" of Discrimination

Budapest.

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) welcomes the publication this week of the Council of Europe's Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities opinion on Bosnia and Herzegovina. The ERRC particularly welcomes the fact that the Committee has identified the very troubling situation of Roma in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a matter of the highest concern.

The Committee's opinion states, among other things, that "[s]erious problems remain in the application of the Framework Convention with regard to the Roma. Full and effective equality has not been secured for Roma, who continue to be exposed to discrimination and face particular difficulties in fields such as housing, health care, employment and education."

With respect to housing, the Committee notes problems that Roma face because of residing in settlements which have not been legalised, and thus being vulnerable to forced eviction without the provision of alternate accommodation. The Committee also expressed particular concern at the fact that "Roma encounter serious obstacles to exercise their right to return to their pre-war homes and to enjoy other related property rights."

The Committee additionally notes problems posed by a lack of identity documents, such as "birth certificates, personal identity documents, documents related to State-provided health insurance and social welfare as well as documents attesting citizenship." The Committee observes that "limiting the scope of the term national minority to citizens only may have a negative impact for example on the protection of those Roma or other persons whose citizenship status following the break-up of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, has not been regularised."

The Committee also observes that Roma, including those who have been displaced, who have been repatriated from abroad or who came as refugees from Kosovo, "are in the most difficult situation and exposed to widespread discrimination."

As to law enforcement, the Committee expresses concern about reports indicating that "some law-enforcement officials have prejudices against persons not belonging to the dominant constituent people, including Roma." The Committee further criticises the attitude of the media towards Roma, the access of Romani children to education, and Roma representation within public authorities.

The Committee urges that "[a] comprehensive national strategy is needed to improve their situation, drawing on the experience gained in the recent elaboration of an Action Plan on their educational needs. In this context, particular attention should be paid to ensuring improved participation of Roma in public affairs." The Committee also observes that the lack of reliable data constitute a matter of concern related to the implementation of the Framework Convention.

The Advisory Committee received Bosnia and Herzegovina's initial report under the Framework Convention in February 2004, and subsequently visited the country in order to seek further information on the implementation of the Convention. The Committee's opinion was made public on May 11, 2005.

"The Non-Constituents: Rights Deprivation of Roma in Post-Genocide Bosnia and Herzegovina", an ERRC Country Report published in February 2004, can be found at: http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=112.

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