CoE Pushes Bosnia to Change Constitution

The Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly, PACE, warned Bosnia on Thursday that it must urgently take measures to change its constitution, notably to end discrimination against minorities, or face serious consequences.

“Bosnia and Herzegovina must urgently launch an institutionalized process for preparing a comprehensive package of amendments to the Constitution – in particular to end the discrimination in elections to some bodies,” the PACE said in a resolution unanimously approved Thursday.

The assembly warned Bosnia that its failure to reform the constitution could lead to a number of measures being taken against it, including suspending its delegation from PACE or suspending its voting rights.

Bosnia’s constitution, part of the Dayton peace agreement which ended the country’s 1992-95 war, allows only Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims), Croats and Serbs to run for the parliament and the presidency.

Under the peace agreement, the country was divided into two highly autonomous parts – Serb dominated Republika Srpska and Bosniak-Croat federation. The two are linked by weak central institutions.

Serbs from the Federation and Bosniaks and Croats from Republika Srpska are also banned from running for the posts reserved for their respective ethnic groups in the central institutions.

Last December, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Bosnia’s constitution discriminated against minorities by barring them from running for highest offices based on their ethnic identity, ordering that it be changed.

The binding decision was issued in response to a complaint filed by Dervo Sejdic, an official of an umbrella body for Roma in Bosnia, and Jakob Finci, Bosnia’s ambassador to Switzerland and the leader of the country’s Jewish community.

The international community has pushed Bosnia to adopt necessary changes before it officially calls general elections planned for October 5, but the country’s bickering ethnic leaders have failed to agree on the model for or the extent of changes.

PACE said on Thursday that the adoption of amendments before the calling of the elections on May 5 was “rather unlikely”.

It said there was a serious risk that the elections will be held “in violation of the European Convention of Human Rights and its Additional Protocols, as well as of the judgment of the Court.”

As a result, the democratic legitimacy of the members of the presidency and deputies in the central parliament will be questioned.

However, PACE said that the constitutional reform process must continue after the elections.

“If, after the election, there is a continued persistent failure by Bosnia and Herzegovina to honor its obligations and commitments, the Assembly could – as a last resort – recommend the country’s suspension from the Council of Europe,” it said in a statement.

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