Woman who successfully sued BiH for discrimination wrote to US envoy Palmer

NEWS 27.10.2021 15:21
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Matthew Palmer
Source: Matthew Palmer (Armend NIMANI / AFP)

Azra Zornic, a Bosnian citizen who was found by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to have been discriminated against in the election process because she does not declare herself as a member of one of the three constituent peoples, wrote to US envoy for monitoring electoral reform programs in BiH Matthew Palmer saying the real bearers of the constituency are the citizens of BiH, regardless of religion, nationality, ethnicity or any other affiliation, alluding to his statement that he will insist only on deleting the ethnic prefix in the election of Presidency members.

Below is the full letter addressed to Mathew Palmer:

“Mr Palmer, I would like to remind you that you are not designated as US Special Envoy for Election Reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina to fulfil your mission at any cost. The ordinary citizens have approached the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg due to discriminatory BiH Constitution and the Election Law. So in my humble opinion, you should talk to citizens that got their verdicts. But instead, you keep negotiating and making dirty deals with ethno-nationalist leaders that have been ruling this country for the last 25 years without any progress – only regression.

On the contrary, they created segregation, polarization, hatred, fear… All with only one aim: to stay in power, with all its perquisites. BiH’s citizens were just subjected to emotional terrorism and retraumatization by Mr. [Milorad] Dodik [the Serb member of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency]; you seem intent of rewarding him for his misdeeds.

To remind you, under every legal tradition, the constitution is above all laws. Therefore, no substantial change in the election law is possible before, in accordance with my verdict, the BiH Constitution is amended. Only cosmetic changes to the election law can be made, such as the introduction of electronic voting, in line with the proposal of the Central Election Commission.

I note that neither according to the Constitution nor according to my verdict, is it possible to give Mr. [Dragan] Covic [the leader of the Croat Democratic Union – HDZ BiH] what he wants. In a democratic society, every citizen should have the right to vote for whoever he wants. Neither Covic nor anyone else can determine whether his vote is “legitimate” or not. The real bearers of the constituency are the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, regardless of religious, ethnic, national or any other affiliation.

We are ALL citizens of this country; why give exclusive rights to anyone in this country? Removing ethnic labels and gerrymandering to ensure politicians get the voters they want is NOT a democracy.

Isn't it already clear to the whole world that these three nationalists are doing this just to stay in power, continue to plunder, and borrow on behalf of this state and for their personal benefit?

If you believe that the US and EU’s credibility among BiH citizens will sustain this sort of betrayal of our dignity, forget it. Nothing you can offer in the way of platitudes can blind us to the act of collaboration with the political class which has brought so much damage to our country and our futures.

Finally, Mr Palmer, if you have been designated to help Bosnia and Herzegovina then do it the right way: by talking to ordinary citizens like myself who got their verdicts for the ECtHR. Help us change first the Constitution then the Election Law. I am aware this would make your mission harder, but believe me it is the only right way. Do not cite our rulings, by which we aimed to open BiH politics, in pursuit of satisfying Covic, Dodik, Izetbegovic, or any other BiH politicians who seek to close it further.”

Azra Zornic sued the state because, according to the Constitution of BiH, she could not run for the House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH or the Presidency of BiH, since she does not declare herself as a member of either of the constituent peoples in BiH (Bosniak, Serb or Croat).

In 2014, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg determined that Azra Zornic's human rights were violated.

“In the Sejdic and Finci verdict, the Strasbourg Court noted that at the time the disputed constitutional provisions were passed, a very fragile truce had taken place on the ground and that the aim of those provisions was to stop the brutal conflict marked by genocide and ethnic cleansing. The nature of that conflict was such that it was necessary to agree to ‘constituent peoples’ in order to ensure peace. However, now, more than eighteen years after the end of the tragic conflict, there can be no reason to keep the disputed constitutional provisions in force. The Court expects that a democratic order will be established without further delay. Given the need to ensure genuine political democracy, the Court considers that the time has come for a political system that will guarantee every citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina the right to stand for election to the Presidency and House of Peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina, without discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity and without granting special rights to the constituent peoples with the exclusion of minorities or citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

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