There was little visible progress on human rights during 2017. Authorities failed yet again to end structural and political discrimination against Jews, Roma, and other minorities. There was limited progress towards accountability for war crimes in domestic courts. Journalists remain vulnerable to intimidation and threats. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people face hate speech and threats. More than 98,000 people remain displaced from their original homes, despite the fact that conflict ended more than 20 years ago.
Ethnic and Religious Discrimination
2017 marked another year in which the government and assembly failed to make progress amending the constitution to eliminate ethnic and religious discrimination in candidacy for the national tripartite presidency and the House of Peoples, despite a further pledge to do so by January 2017.
According to the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees, the official number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) at the end of October was 98,574. By mid-November, 39 internally displaced families (107 individuals) and 16 refugee families (56 individuals) had returned to their pre-war homes since January, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
By mid-November, Bosnia and Herzegovina had registered 211 asylum applications and granted four people subsidiary protection. No one had been granted refugee status at the time of writing. Most asylum seekers came from Syria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
Accountability for War Crimes
There was slow progress in prosecuting war crimes in domestic courts. Between January and November 2017, the State Court War Crimes Chamber delivered 37 verdicts, 20 of them appeals. Out of 37 verdicts, the court reached seven acquittals, 22 convictions, and eight partial acquittals. The total number of final judgments since the court became fully operational in 2005 stands at 188.
Freedom of Media
Journalists continue to work in an environment where threats and intimidation are common. The national journalists’ association BH Novinari registered, in the first nine months of 2017, 45 cases involving assault on media freedom and expression, including nine physical attacks, seven death threats and six other threats, and two cases of defamation. The state response remains inadequate. Police investigations into attacks take too long and only rarely lead to criminal proceedings. Although the total number of cases of assaults declined, the number of physical attacks and death threats rose slightly compared to 2016. The difficult climate for journalists was also underlined in an August 2017 report by the Institution of Human Rights Ombudsman of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which recommended stronger criminal sanctions and training for police, prosecutors, and judges to tackle attacks on journalists.
Key International Actors
In its annual Human Rights Report published in March, the US Department of State highlighted the issue of child marriage in certain Romani communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, affecting girls between the ages of 12 and 14, and the lack of government programs to tackle these issues. It noted that violence against women remains widespread and police response is inadequate. The report identified conditions in the country’s prisons as harsh and sometimes life-threatening.