Renewed Calls for Reform of Discriminatory Electoral System

03 April 2006

In a press release issued on 17 November 2005, on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Agreement, Minority Rights Group (MRG) appealed for minority rights and reform of a discriminatory electoral system, during negotiations over the new Bosnia and Herzegovina Constitution. Presently, only individuals from the three "constituent peoples" – Bosniacs, Croats, and Serbs – can stand for office. This policy excludes Roma, Jews and other minorities, violating their right to participate equally in public life while institutionalising politics along ethnic lines. Elections are further restricted by ethnicity as only a Serb may be elected from Republika Srpska and only a Bosniac or Croat from the Federation. Individuals who do not identify themselves as belonging to a single constituent group are restricted from full political participation, thereby violating the rights of minority groups as well as individuals of mixed ethnicity.

These policies violate international law as it effectively denies the right of minorities, who are not among the constitutionally defined "constituent peoples" to freely express their self-identity without suffering the consequence of being excluded from political participation. The Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities, which Bosnia and Herzegovina ratified on 24 February 2000, states that "Parties undertake to adopt, where necessary, adequate measures in order to promote, in all areas of economic, social, political and cultural life, full and effective equality between persons belonging to a national minority ". The United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Bosnia and Herzegovina ratified on 1 September 1993, states that "every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity… to take part in the con or through freely chosen representatives" and "to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors."

ERRC, in partnership with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York is campaigning to change the electoral system and establish minority rights in the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnia and Herzegovina's discriminatory electoral system is the central theme addressed in the ERRC Country Report, The Non-Constituents: Rights Deprivation of Roma in Post-Genocide Bosnia and Herzegovina. The full text of the report is available HERE.

(ERRC, MRG)

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