This past week’s protests in Tuzla, Sarajevo, Mostar, Zenica and other cities in the Federation of BiH and Brcko District were a demonstration of citizens’ frustration with the current economic, social, and political situation in the Federation and BiH more generally. We have long called on the citizens of BiH to hold their elected leaders responsible through civic activism efforts and participating in elections. We have been and will continue to support the right of BiH citizens to assemble and protest peacefully. Strong public discourse and two way dialogue between citizens and leaders are the clearest signs of a healthy democracy.
At the same time, we must condemn violence in any form. Violence against protesters, police, journalists, and public property is not acceptable and must end. The use of violence distracts attention from the fundamental message we see the vast majority of protesters trying to make — that reform is necessary now.
Government leaders have the responsibility to listen to and hear citizens’ very legitimate calls for reform. We call on government leaders at all levels in BiH to take the demands of citizens seriously, to reject efforts to use the protests to stoke fear and advance nationalist agendas, and to come together to make the difficult compromises necessary to move BiH forward. The necessary reforms can and should come from within the institutions of BiH and must respect Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as a state composed of two entities and Brcko District.
In the coming days, we expect BiH leaders to ensure the peace while listening to and respecting the people. There is much work to be done for Bosnia and Herzegovina to become a prosperous and fully democratic state where institutions and political leaders serve the people effectively and are accountable.