In 2019, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) saw little improvement in protecting people’s rights. The holding of its first LGBT Pride was a welcome development, even though lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people continue to face discrimination and violence. The state fails in practice to protect women from gender-based violence or hold most of those responsible for it to account. A decade after provisions in the constitution were ruled discriminatory by a human rights court, they have yet to be changed. Media freedom remains compromised and the pace of war crimes prosecutions slow, according to Human Rights Watch.
Discrimination and Intolerance
December 2019 marked 10 years since the Sejdić-Finci ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which found that the Bosnian constitution discriminates against ethnic and religious minorities by not allowing them to run for the presidency. In the decade that followed, the ECtHR has found similar constitutional violations in three further cases, but the constitution still has not been amended.
In October, the ECtHR ruled that Bosnian authorities had discriminated against a resident of the city of Mostar on the grounds of her place of residence, by failing to hold municipal elections for 11 years because of a disagreement among its main parties about the voting system. The court ordered Bosnia to hold elections in Mostar within six months.
The 2019 World Bank study examining Roma inclusion in the Western Balkans between 2011 and 2017 found only limited progress in improving access to education, employment, health, housing, and documentation for Roma in the coun- try. In July 2019, Bosnia joined other governments in adopting a Declaration on Roma Integration within the EU Enlargement Process, committing to improve access to services for Roma and involve them in policy formation.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) between January and September 2019 registered 109 incidents of hate crimes—66.67 percent involving religion or ethnicity. The failure of Bosnian authorities to record statistics on types of hate crime impedes comprehensive assessment of the problem and effective response to it.
In March 2019, a Bosniak post-war returnee from Prijedor was physically and verbally attacked by someone who identified themselves as a Bosnian Serb and posted a video of the incident on social media. At the time of writing, a criminal investigation was ongoing.
Asylum Seekers and Internally Displaced People
The numbers of asylum seekers and migrants coming to Bosnia increased. Between January and August 2019, the state Service for Foreigners’ Affairs registered 18,071 new asylum seekers, 5,000 more than the same period last year. The most common country of origin was Pakistan, followed by Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iraq and Syria.
In the first of half of 2019, 17,165 people indicated an intention to seek asylum. Only 426 people actually applied during the same period. According to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, short application deadlines and limited state capacity to process claims hinder access to asylum procedures.
At time of writing, there was one state-managed asylum center and six temporary accommodation centers with total capacity of around 4,000 people, an improvement on 2018, but still leaving thousands unable to access shelter and basic services.
At time of writing, a program aimed at building houses for 96,421 Bosnians who remain displaced by the war in the 1990s had built 1,000 homes. Authorities said this should allow residents to relocate from 8 out of the 121 collective centers for the internally displaced that are still open. Fifty-eight percent of refugees who fled the Bosnia war in the 1990s have not returned to the country.