Planned Eviction of Longstanding Romani Community Temporarily Postponed in Bosnia and Herzegovina
10 May 2003
ERRC field research, undertaken in partnership with the Bijeljina-based non-governmental organisation Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, Republika Srpska (HCHRRS), revealed that twenty-two Muslim Romani families, including approximately forty children, living in a thirty-year-old settlement in the Bišće Polje of the Stari Grad municipality in Mostar, southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, were facing eviction. In an interview with the ERRC/HCHRRS on December 6, 2002, Mr Ramadan Haziri, President of the Romani association Neretva, stated that, on November 29, 2002, the Stari Grad municipal authorities issued a decision to destroy the Romani huts in the settlement, all of which had been built without permits on municipal property. Mr Haziri reported that the municipality did not offer alternative accommodation to the Roma from the settlement, so they appealed to the municipality for a cancellation of the decision. When the municipality would not agree, Mr Haziri reported, the Roma complained to the Ombudsman. Mr Stjepan Prskalo, Deputy Ombudsman in Bosnia and Herzegovina, informed the ERRC/HCHRRS that the municipality planned to sell the land to private companies. After meeting with Roma from the settlement, the Ombudsman's Office reportedly convinced the municipality to temporarily postpone the destruction of the huts in the Romani settlement. Mr Prskalo said, however, that his office was unable to persuade the municipality to provide alternative accommodation for the Roma from the settlement. Mr Mustafa Mešanović, a 32-year-old Romani man living in the settlement, told the ERRC/HCHRRS that he and his family barely earned enough money to buy food. Mr Mešanović stated that if the settlement were to be destroyed, none of the Roma from the settlement would be able to afford new housing and they would have to survive on the street. As of February 14, 2003, none of the huts in the settlement had been destroyed. In March 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina succeeded to the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights. Article 11(1) of the Covenant states, "The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The States Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right [?]." Furthermore, in 1997, the Committee on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights stated, in Article 16 of its General Comment 7, that, "Evictions should not result in individuals being rendered homeless or vulnerable to the violation of other human rights. Where those affected are unable to provide for themselves, the State party must take all appropriate measures, to the maximum of its available resources, to ensure that adequate alternative housing, resettlement or access to productive land, as the case may be, is available."
In other news, on October 3, 2002, the Banja Luka-based daily newspaper Nezavisne novine reported that the municipal government in Prijedor, in northwestern Republika Srpska, had withheld funds intended for Roma. The daily quoted Mr Redžep Hatić, president of the Association Happy Roma, as having stated that there was funding in the municipal budget for the Romani community, but that it was not being distributed. Mr Hatić further stated that the approximately five hundred Roma who had returned to Prijedor since the war were unable to find employment and had problems in school. The financial assistance of the municipality would greatly help Roma in the community. Further information on the situation of Roma in Bosnia and Herzegovina is available on the ERRC's Internet website at: http://www.errc.org.
(ERRC, HCHRRS, Neretva, Nezavisne novine)