Roma Prohibited from Accessing Public Services in Bosnia and Herzegovina

07 February 2004

Mr Šaban Mujić, president of the Tuzla-based Romani organisation Sa E Roma informed the ERRC, in partnership with the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, Republika Srpska (HCHRRS) that residents of the village of Kiseljak attempted to forbid Romani residents from accessing public transportation in the town at the beginning of July 2003. Mr Mujić reported that town residents petitioned the local government for a regulation which would prohibit Roma from using public transportation. In the petition the residents claimed Roma avoid paying for bus tickets and that Romani children are always very dirty and use foul language, which is inappropriate in a public setting. The petition also reportedly stated that passengers had complained about the presence of Roma on the buses. Sa E Roma informed cantonal authorities of the situation and stated their concern about the effect of such a motion. Cantonal authorities reportedly responded immediately and informed the local authorities in Kiseljak that such a decision was illegal.

In another case, on May 22, 2003, workers at a private swimming pool in the town of Živinice in the Tuzla Canton, Bosnia and Herzegovina, refused a group of Romani children access to the pool in which non-Roma were swimming, according to Mr Mujić. Mr Mujić reported that Sa E Roma had organised a summer school/camp for Romani children from all areas of former Yugoslavia. On the day in question, the camp leader bought the tickets for all of the children, but when the children entered the pool area, they were approached by pool workers who stated that not all of the children could swim in the main pool. The workers then reportedly started to divide the children into two groups according to the colour of their skin. Children with very dark skin were sent to a smaller pool, while children with lighter skin were allowed in the main pool. As reported by Mr Mujić, the children did not accept such division and their guide pleaded with the owners and pool workers not to separate the children, adding that such separation was a clear case of discrimination. Despite their protests, the owners did not allow the darker skinned children to swim in the main pool and all children, together with their guide, left the pool.

Mr Mujić told the ERRC/HCHRRS that the owners of the pool confirmed to him that the event had taken place. Mr Mujić also reported that since this particular incident, Sa E Roma had encountered several more cases of discrimination against Roma at the pool. Sa E Roma immediately informed the Živinice municipal authorities about the incident, as well as the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the cantonal authorities, the OSCE and the Office for Endangered People of Bosnia and Herzegovina, along with the media.

Mr Mujić reported that on July 22, 2003, the Živinice municipal authorities sent a letter to the pool owners warning that discriminatory behaviour towards Roma violates international human rights standards. According to Mr Mujić, the pool owners did not amend their practises or act in any way on the information. The Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina reportedly informed the association that they condemned the discriminatory acts at the pool.

Finally, on May 19, 2003 Mr Esad Ibralić, a 44-year old Romani man from Lipovica in northeastern Bosnia and Herzegovina, testified to the ERRC/HCHRRS that Roma from the village are routinely refused access to a road crossing in the primarily Bosniak neighbouring village of Meškovići. Roma from Lipovica reportedly have to pass through Meškovići to get to Lipovica. Severe tensions between Bosniaks and Roma in the two villages has reportedly arisen, as the Roma are frequently subjected to racial slurs such as, "Run away, children! Here come the Roma!" and threatened with violence. Mr Ibralić stated that the tension has caused many of the Romani parents from the village to not send their children to school because they have to pass through Meškovići. Further information on discrimination against Roma in access to public accommodation is available on the ERRC's Internet website at: www.errc.org.

 (ERRC, HCHRRS, Sa E Roma)

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