Twenty-seven years ago, almost two-thirds of Bosnians decided they want to live in a country where all its citizens will be equal. This wish, however, was not fulfilled yet. This fight for equality stepped out of state borders into international courts where Sejdic – Finci, Pilav, Zornic and many other cases are still awaiting implementation.
Back in 2006 when Ilijaz Pilav filed a complaint to the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg, after the Constitutional Court banned him from running for Presidency as a Bosniak from the Republika Srpska entity (RS), he thought he was doing the right thing. The Strasbourg court decided that Bosnia’s Constitution is breaking the Human Rights Convention. Pilav could not even imagine that a decade later, the ruling elites would continue to ignore the verdict.
“There’s no positive solution in sight, and until something drastically changes the structure of our political elites, I don’t think there will be any changes in the country,” Pilav said for N1. “On the other hand, we can’t turn a blind eye to international community’s hypocrisy in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Once, the implementation of such verdicts was a must, but sometimes they simply turn a blind eye.”
According to the Bosnian Constitution, its tripartite Presidency consists of a Serb, Bosniak and Croat representative. The Serb representative is elected in the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska entity, while the other two are elected in the Bosniak-and-Croat-shared Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina entity. No Serb from the Federation can run for office, nor can Bosniaks and Croats run from the Republika Srpska.
The Constitution also prohibits members of other nationalities and national minorities from running for office, regardless of where they come from.
In 2009, the Roma representative Dervo Sejdic and former Head of the Jewish Community, Jakob Finci, sued Bosnia for its discriminatory Constitution barring them – as they are neither Bosniaks, Croats or Serbs - from running for Presidency. The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled in favour of Sejdic and Finci, saying the state is discriminating against them as a Roma and a Jew.
The former head of the Jewish community Jakob Finci still holds a copy of the verdict, research papers on the topic of this verdict and other documents related to it. Neither did he believe that its implementation would take this long, but he said the solution is straightforward and it takes changing just one sentence in the Constitution that would say that 'Others' can run for office as well.
“I feel disappointed that my country is not doing what entire Europe tells it to do. Let’s not forget that a Romanian representative in the European Parliament, whose country presides over the EU this year, told us that would be no progress in Bosnia’s EU accession process without the implementation of this verdict,” Finci told N1. “We’re still hoping that in 2020, when Croatia takes over the presiding position, they will get us in, somehow. That’s not the way EU works.”
Many believe that Europe is responsible for the fact that the Strasbourg Court verdicts were never implemented. After years of negotiations, the EU shifted its focus onto the Reform Agenda – a set of reforms needed for Bosnia to continue its EU accession path. But the biggest mistake was the lack of any reaction from the EU when it was all too clear that Bosnia could not do the job itself, said Lada Sadikovic, a professor of Constitutional Law.
“Why didn’t the international community’s High Representative (who oversees the civilian implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the 1992-1995 Bosnian war) react, why didn’t the EU institutions in Bosnia say anything. Neither did the High Representative who has the final say in this country, fulfil his duty,” she said.
Not all governments were formed at all levels after the October election, and not all state institutions function. The question of implementation of these verdicts is therefore not on anyone’s agenda. The international community has long stopped pressuring the local politicians to implement them, but they remain one of the conditions for Bosnia’s EU accession.
The appellants themselves believe the political elites in this country are not interested in implementing the European Law because that would mean countless new court cases which would weaken their, currently very stable, positions.