Council of Europe Anti-Racism Commission Issues First Report on Bosnia and Herzegovina
On February 15, 2004, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) made public its first report on Bosnia and Herzegovina under its country-by-country analysis of racism and intolerance in each of the member states of the Council of Europe. ECRI noted in its report that the situation of Roma/Gypsies in Bosnia and Herzegovina is of particular concern noting that the already difficult economic situation of the country is further compounded by "prejudice and discrimination both at societal level and by public authorities. The disadvantaged position of Roma is evident across all fields of life". ECRI further noted:
"60. An aspect that is of particular concern to ECRI, as it affects the enjoyment of many rights by Roma, including fundamental human rights, is Roma's lack of personal documents. […] The fact that many Roma live in informal settlements, whose residents are not registered with the local authorities, has an obviously negative impact on the possibility for the Roma to obtain at least some of these documents. […] ECRI emphasises that, given the health and economic situation of the Roma population at present, it is particularly important to ensure that the Roma possess the necessary documentation to enable them to access health services and social benefits.
"61. Roma are reported to have experienced serious difficulties and discrimination in exercising property rights and, therefore, their right to return to their pre-war homes. It has been reported to ECRI that, since many Roma lived in social housing before the war, this group of persons has been particularly negatively affected by the fact that property laws passed after the war do not recognise in principle social housing as a form of tenure to which one might claim repossession rights. Furthermore, many of the Roma who used to live in informal settlements before the war have been unable to return there, as such settlements had been destroyed and no alternative provision of accommodation has been made. Those Roma who could claim repossession of personal property are also reported to have experienced serious difficulties and, often, discrimination by the authorities and by other citizens. There are reports, for instance, that local authorities have often obstructed Roma repossession claims on grounds that temporary occupants of their property had nowhere to go. In cases where Roma were successful in establishing their claims, the authorities have often reportedly been slow in removing occupants and, in some cases, Roma have had to pay temporary occupants in order to have them leave their property. Temporary occupants are also reported to have looted or vandalised Roma property before leaving, without the authorities taking action to punish the perpetrators. ECRI urges the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina to make all local authorities aware of the illegal nature of these practices and to ensure that acts of damage to Roma property are investigated and their perpetrators brought to justice."
ECRI also reported extensively on several other issues including: inhuman living conditions, verbal and physical abuse by non-state actors, low labour market participation rates, conflict with law enforcement officials and the low educational participation rate of Romani children. To view the full text of the ECRI report and its recommendations visit the Council of Europe’s website at: http://www.coe.int/T/E/human_rights/Ecri/1-ECRI/. Further information on the situation of Roma in Bosnia can be found in the ERRC country report “The Non-Constituents: Rights Deprivation of Roma in Post-Genocide Bosnia and Herzegovina" on the ERRC website at http://www.errc.org/uploads/upload_en/file/00/28/m00000028.pdf.