European Rights Court Rules Against Bosnian Constitution

Bosnia’s constitution violates the rights of minorities by preventing them from aspiring to hold the country’s highest political offices, the European Court of Human Rights ruled this week.

“This decision affirms that ethnic domination should have no role in a democracy,” Sheri P. Rosenberg, co-counsel on the case and director of the Human Rights Clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law told AP.

A Jew and a Roma – would-be political candidates Jakob Finci and Dervo Sejdic -filed suit at the court in June, charging that the constitution was discriminatory because it precludes anyone not of Bosnian, Serb or Croat ethnicity from running for parliamentary or presidential offices. Bosnia’s current constitution was written as an annex to the Dayton Accords, crafted to end the 1992-95 Bosnian War.

The Court did take note of the circumstances under which the current constitution was created, but decided the time has come for a change.

“The Court acknowledged that this system, put in place at a time when a fragile ceasefire had been accepted by all the parties to the inter-ethnic conflict that had deeply affected the country, pursued the legitimate aim of restoring peace. It noted, however, that the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina had improved considerably since the Dayton Peace Agreement and the adoption of the Constitution, as borne out by the fact that closure of the international administration of the country was now being envisaged,” the deciding 17-judge panel said in a press release on the decision.

The Court’s decision is binding, obliging Bosnian authorities to reform the document.

Earlier this year, U.S. and European officials presented a new draft constitution that covered this and other issues – but representatives from all three of the country’s main ethnic groups were unhappy with the proposal.

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