The BiH Constitutional Court annulled the verdict of the Supreme Court of the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska (RS) entity, which denied the existence of discrimination in access to education for students of the Bosniak returnee community in Konjevic Polje.
The decision was made on June 23, and the appeal was submitted to the Constitutional Court of BiH by a group of parents of students from the Konjevic Polje Regional School at the Elementary School “Petar Kocic” in Kravica, against the verdict of the Supreme Court of RS from October 30, 2018, when the motion for review was rejected as unfounded.
The Court determined that the primary school and the RS Ministry of Education and Culture discriminated against the appellants on linguistic and ethnic grounds.
The decision specifically referred to the obligation to establish the existence of discrimination on the issue of the right to the Bosnian language (as a mother tongue). In addition, violations of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms have been identified.
“The Basic Court accepted the testimonies of witnesses that only the subject ‘Serbian language’ was studied at school, and that the name of the language ‘Bosnian language’ was only formally and manually entered in the student's grade books. It was further stated that the First Instance Court did not accept part of the witness's statement in the part in which they said that the textbooks used by the children were exclusively in Cyrillic because the appellants could propose as evidence the textbooks used by the children at school which certainly were available. Based on the evidence presented, the First Instance Court found that the appellants had sufficiently substantiated their allegations of discrimination, concluding that the appellants had made the existence of discrimination probable,” the decision reads.
It is further stated that the RS Supreme Court's decision from January 30, 2018, is revoked.
Violation of European Convention on Human Rights
“The case is being returned to the RS Supreme Court, which is obliged to make a new decision in accordance with Article II / 3.e) of the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Article 6 paragraph 1 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The RS Supreme Court is ordered to inform the Constitutional Court of BiH about the measures taken with the aim of enforcing this decision within 60 days from the day of delivery of this decision,” the text of the decision concludes.
The problem appeared when the RS Education Ministry decided to abolish the name “Bosnian language” for Bosniak children speaking that language in 2018 and instead call it “language of the Bosniak people,” citing the RS entity Constitution which says the people in this entity speak Serbian language and the language of the Bosniak people as well as the language of the Croat people.
That is when parents stopped sending their children to school, protesting the Ministry's decision, and authorities from the Sarajevo Canton (from the Bosniak-Croat shared Federation entity – FBiH) started sending their teachers to teach children classes according to the Sarajevo Canton's curriculum.
Since then, the parents persisted in their legal fight for the Bosnian Language which is a Constitutional category in the country.