MINELRES: ERRC: CERD Focuses on Situation of Roma in Bosnia and Herzegovina

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Mon Apr 3 18:48:02 2006

Original sender: European Roma Rights Centre <errc@errc.org>

UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) Focuses
on Situation of Roma, Legally Enshrined Exclusion of Minorities, During
Periodic Review of Compliance by Bosnia with International Law

London, Budapest, New York, Sarajevo, 30 March 2006: NGOs and other 
independent observers today welcomed the concluding observations on
Bosnia and Herzegovina of the United Nation's Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), made public this week. The
CERD's conclusions were issued following comprehensive review of the
Bosnian's government's first report to the CERD since the end of
Bosnia's genocidal ethnic war in 1995.

The CERD assesses country's compliance with the International Convention
on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), the
primary international law elaborating the ban on racial discrimination.
In the run up to the Committee's review, the ERRC provided the Committee
with materials detailing Roma rights concerns in Bosnia and Herzegovina,
including the 2004 Country Report "The Non-Constituents: Rights
Deprivation of Roma in Post-Genocide Bosnia and Herzegovina". The ERRC
also provided an oral briefing for members of the CERD. In addition,
Minority Rights Group International (MRG) and The Benjamin N. Cardozo
School of Law, Human Rights and Genocide Clinic (Cardozo) in New York
provided a submission on the exclusion of minorities and persons of
mixed marriage in Bosnia, as a result of Bosnia's Constitutional

The Committee addressed extensively the problem of the structural
exclusion of minorities enshrined in the Constitution established
pursuant to the Dayton peace accords, a central concern of all three of
the intervening organisations. Commenting on the issue, the Committee
noted that it was "deeply concerned that under Articles IV and V of the
State Constitution, only persons belonging to a group considered by law
to be one of Bosnia and Herzegovina's 'constituent peoples'(Bosniaks,
Croats, and Serbs), which group also constitutes the dominant majority
within the Entity in which the person resides (e.g., Bosniaks and Croats
within the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbs within the
Republika Srpska), can be elected to the House of Peoples and to the
tripartite Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The existing legal
structure therefore excludes from the House of Peoples and the
Presidency all persons who are referred to as 'Others', that is persons
belonging to national minorities or ethnic groups other than Bosniaks,
Croats, or Serbs. [...]"

The Committee went on to recommend that Bosnian authorities "proceed
with amending the relevant provisions of the State Constitution and the
Election Law, with a view to ensuring the equal enjoyment of the right
to vote and to stand for election by all citizens irrespective of
ethnicity." The Committee also urged that "all rights provided by law
are granted, both in law and in fact, to every person within the
territory of the State Party, irrespective of race or ethnicity. The
Committee strongly recommends that the State party review and remove all
discriminatory language from the State and Entity Constitutions, and
from all legislative and other domestic law texts, including especially,
but not limited to, distinctions between so-called 'constituent peoples'
and 'Others'."

The Committee expressed dissatisfaction with the absence of
comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation in Bosnia, noting
especially the lack of anti-discrimination law "in the civil and
administrative fields". In this vein, the CERD "recommends that the
State party enact comprehensive administrative, civil and/or criminal
anti-discrimination legislation, which prohibits acts of racial
discrimination in employment, housing, healthcare, social security
(including pensions), education and public accommodations."

The very troubling human rights situation of Roma was a central concern
of the Committee. It offered no fewer than seven recommendations devoted
specifically to problematic issues of law, policy and/or practice in the
area of securing the fundamental human rights of Roma on an equal basis
with others in Bosnia. Areas of concern include segregated education,
low rates of attendance in primary and secondary education, exclusion
from the labour market, lack of legal title for housing, lack of
sufficient funding for the official Roma Council, failure to adequately
implement the government's Roma Strategy, and a widespread lack of
personal documents among Roma. To the latter issue, the Committee urged
the Bosnian government "to take immediate steps, e.g. by removing
administrative obstacles, to ensure that all Roma have access to
personal documents that are necessary for them to enjoy, inter alia,
their economic, social and cultural rights, such as employment, housing,
health care, social security and education."

Finally, the Committee expressed concern about "the lack of updated
statistical data on the ethnic composition of the population, as well as
on the number and nature of reported acts of racial discrimination
within the territory of the State party. [...]" CERD recommended that
the Bosnian government "endeavour to collect disaggregated statistical
data on the ethnic composition of its population and establish adequate
mechanisms for monitoring acts of ethnically motivated discrimination
and violence among its different ethnic groups."

The full text of the CERD's findings on Bosnia and Herzegovina are
available at:

The ERRC Country Report "The Non-Constituents: Rights Deprivation of
Roma in Post-Genocide Bosnia and Herzegovina"is available at: 

Further information on the situation of Roma in Bosnia and Herzegovina,
as well as on ERRC concerns in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is available from
ERRC Programmes Director Claude Cahn, ccahn@errc.org, (36 20) 98 36 445.

The MRG/Cardozo submission to the CERD is available from Minority Rights
Group International Media Officer Ilana Rapaport,
ILANA.RAPAPORT@mrgmail.org, +44 (0)207 422 4205 or +44 (0)7870 596863

Further information on minority rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as
well as human rights protections in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is available
from Sheri Rosenberg, Director, Human Rights and Genocide Clinic,
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, sprosenb@yu.ed, + 212 790 0455.


The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is an international public
interest law organization engaging in a range of activities aimed at
combating anti-Romani racism and human rights abuse of Roma, in
particular strategic litigation, international advocacy, research and
policy development, and training of Romani activists. For more
information about the European Roma Rights Centre, visit the ERRC
website at http://www.errc.org.

European Roma Rights Centre
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93
Tel.: ++ (36 1) 413 2200
Fax: ++ (36 1) 413 2201
E-mail: office@errc.org

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is an international
non-governmental organization (NGO) with an international governing
Council which meets twice a year. We have consultative status with the
United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and observer status
with the African Commission for Human and Peoples' Rights. MRG has been
working with and on behalf of non-dominant ethnic, religious and
linguistic communities for over 30 years. We listen to minorities and
indigenous peoples to avoid prescriptive and patronizing approaches, and
have some 130 partners in some 60 countries. In our work we recognize
that factors such as age, class, disability and gender can further
marginalize members of certain groups and communities. We work within a
clear framework of international standards in a non-partisan way, and
seek to persuade decision-makers and communities of the need for
long-term, sustainable change. MRG also seeks to raise awareness of the
situation of minorities and indigenous peoples among the general public.

Minority Rights Group International
54 Commercial Street
London E1 6LT
United Kingdom
+44 (0)207 422 4205

The Human Rights and Genocide Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School
of Law introduces students to the practice of law in the cross-cultural
setting of international human rights litigation and advocacy.
Specifically, the Clinic engages in human rights advocacy concerning,
systemic rights abuses that can, and often do, create the environment
that leads to genocide or crimes against humanity, genocide itself, and
myriad human rights abuses that continue after genocide has been
committed. For more information about the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of
Law, Human Rights and Genocide Clinic, visit the website at 

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