Decision on equality irrespective of ethnicity in Bosnia and Herzegovina

15 August 2001

On June 11, 2001, Wolfgang Petritsch, the High Representative of the United Nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina announced, in the form of an interim decision, that all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina are equal, irrespective of their ethnicity. The High Representative is the final authority regarding interpretation of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Dayton Accords) on the Civilian Implementation of the Peace Settlement, and as such, his decisions are legally binding throughout the entire territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The decision ensures the protection of the vital interests of, and freedom from discrimination for the constituent peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina- Bosniacs, Croats, Serbs and others, including Roma - on the territory of the whole country. The decision marks a change from the previous situation, whereby, according to the respective constitutions of Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbs were the constituent people in the territory of Republika Srpska and Bosnians and Croats in the Federation. The decision also calls for the restructuring of the Constitutional Commissions in both Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which have 16 members, all named by the High Representative. The Constitutional Commission of the federation currently includes a Romani member, Mr Mehmed Suljić, president of the non-governmental organisation Union of Roma in Bosnia and Herzegovina; the Republika Srpska Commission has no Romani representatives. The text of any new law, decision or regulation has to reach the Commission at least ten days before it is discussed before the Federation House of Representatives, or the National Assembly of Republika Srpska. If any member of the Commission feels that the proposed legislation is discriminatory, the Commission will be convened and asked to reach an agreement on the issue.

(ERRC, Office of the High Representative)

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