United Nations Race Discrimination Committee Concerned at Situation in Bosnia

30 March 2006

UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) Focuses on Situation of Roma, Legally Enshrined Exclusion of Minorities, During Periodic Review of Compliance by Bosnia with International Law

London, Budapest, New York, Sarajevo: NGOs and other independent observers today welcomed the concluding observations on Bosnia and Herzegovina of the United Nation’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), made public this week. The CERD’s conclusions were issued following comprehensive review of the Bosnian’s government’s first report to the CERD since the end of Bosnia’s genocidal ethnic war in 1995.

The CERD assesses country’s compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), the primary international law elaborating the ban on racial discrimination. In the run up to the Committee’s review, the ERRC provided the Committee with materials detailing Roma rights concerns in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the 2004 Country Report “The Non-Constituents: Rights Deprivation of Roma in Post-Genocide Bosnia and Herzegovina”. The ERRC also provided an oral briefing for members of the CERD. In addition, Minority Rights Group International (MRG) and The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Human Rights and Genocide Clinic (Cardozo) in New York provided a submission on the exclusion of minorities and persons of mixed marriage in Bosnia, as a result of Bosnia’s Constitutional arrangements.

The Committee addressed extensively the problem of the structural exclusion of minorities enshrined in the Constitution established pursuant to the Dayton peace accords, a central concern of all three of the intervening organisations. Commenting on the issue, the Committee noted that it was “deeply concerned that under Articles IV and V of the State Constitution, only persons belonging to a group considered by law to be one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s ‘constituent peoples’ (Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs), which group also constitutes the dominant majority within the Entity in which the person resides (e.g., Bosniaks and Croats within the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbs within the Republika Srpska), can be elected to the House of Peoples and to the tripartite Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The existing legal structure therefore excludes from the House of Peoples and the Presidency all persons who are referred to as ‘Others’, that is persons belonging to national minorities or ethnic groups other than Bosniaks, Croats, or Serbs. […]”

The Committee went on to recommend that Bosnian authorities “proceed with amending the relevant provisions of the State Constitution and the Election Law, with a view to ensuring the equal enjoyment of the right to vote and to stand for election by all citizens irrespective of ethnicity.” The Committee also urged that “all rights provided by law are granted, both in law and in fact, to every person within the territory of the State Party, irrespective of race or ethnicity. The Committee strongly recommends that the State party review and remove all discriminatory language from the State and Entity Constitutions, and from all legislative and other domestic law texts, including especially, but not limited to, distinctions between so-called ‘constituent peoples’ and ‘Others’.”

The Committee expressed dissatisfaction with the absence of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation in Bosnia, noting especially the lack of anti-discrimination law “in the civil and administrative fields”. In this vein, the CERD “recommends that the State party enact comprehensive administrative, civil and/or criminal anti-discrimination legislation, which prohibits acts of racial discrimination in employment, housing, healthcare, social security (including pensions), education and public accommodations.”

The very troubling human rights situation of Roma was a central concern of the Committee. It offered no fewer than seven recommendations devoted specifically to problematic issues of law, policy and/or practice in the area of securing the fundamental human rights of Roma on an equal basis with others in Bosnia. Areas of concern include segregated education, low rates of attendance in primary and secondary education, exclusion from the labour market, lack of legal title for housing, lack of sufficient funding for the official Roma Council, failure to adequately implement the government’s Roma Strategy, and a widespread lack of personal documents among Roma. To the latter issue, the Committee urged the Bosnian government “to take immediate steps, e.g. by removing administrative obstacles, to ensure that all Roma have access to personal documents that are necessary for them to enjoy, inter alia, their economic, social and cultural rights, such as employment, housing, health care, social security and education.”

Finally, the Committee expressed concern about “the lack of updated statistical data on the ethnic composition of the population, as well as on the number and nature of reported acts of racial discrimination within the territory of the State party. […]” CERD recommended that the Bosnian government “endeavour to collect disaggregated statistical data on the ethnic composition of its population and establish adequate mechanisms for monitoring acts of ethnically motivated discrimination and violence among its different ethnic groups.”

The full text of the CERD’s findings on Bosnia and Herzegovina are available at:

The ERRC Country Report “The Non-Constituents: Rights Deprivation of Roma in Post-Genocide Bosnia and Herzegovina” is available at:

Further information on the situation of Roma in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as on ERRC concerns in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is available from ERRC Programmes Director Claude Cahn, ccahn@errc.org, (36 20) 98 36 445.

The MRG/Cardozo submission to the CERD is available from Minority Rights Group International Media Officer Ilana Rapaport, ILANA.RAPAPORT@mrgmail.org, +44 (0)207 422 4205 or +44 (0)7870 596863
Further information on minority rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as human rights protections in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is available from Sheri Rosenberg, Director, Human Rights and Genocide Clinic, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, sprosenb@yu.ed, + 212 790 0455.


Challenge discrimination, promote equality


Receive our public announcements Receive our Roma Rights Journal


The latest Roma Rights news and content online

join us

Find out how you can join or support our activities