The judgment of the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg, in the case of Fata Orlovic and Others vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina, became final on January 1st this year, Belma Skalonjic, a Bosnian agent before the European Court, confirmed to Oslobodenje news portal.
“There is no legal remedy. Competent authorities in Bosnia are required to ensure full implementation within the deadlines set out in the judgment,” Skalonjic points out.
“The deadline for executing the verdict is three months, expires on April 1st, Faris Vehabovic, a judge in the Strasbourg Court explained, noting that it is only from that point on that any non-enforcement can be discussed. Why was there no appeal against the ruling that the church should be removed from the courtyard of Fata Orlovic?
Skalonjic explains that it could have come solely from Bosnian Council of Ministers to initiate or some form of conclusion that a second instance procedure should be initiated. There were none.
“I made information for the Council of Ministers and suggested specific conclusions, but the Council never put this information on the agenda. This is how the final deadline came and the verdict is binding, Skalonjic points out, noting that “here it is indisputable and legal and factual that the decision of Republika Srpska Ministry of Refugees and Displaced Persons to recover property was never implemented”.
Skalonjic points out that the municipal authorities have excluded the applicants’ private land as undeveloped construction land, “even though it is a field and land used for agricultural purposes”.
On October 1st last year, Fata Orlovic won a dispute at the European Court of Human Rights against Bosnia and Herzegovina in the case of a church built on her land in Konjevic Polje.
As stated in the judgment, it was unanimously decided that there had been a violation of the article relating to the protection of property and that church has to be dislocated.
There were a number of controversial and highly politicized cases involving the illegal construction of religious buildings or monuments on private or government-owned land. In these cases the buildings or monuments, which had been built to send a political message to minority believers about the dominance of the majority ethnoreligious group in that area, created ethnic tensions and impeded the process of reconciliation.
For example, an illegally constructed Serb Orthodox church remained on the land of a Bosniak returnee, Fata Orlovic, in the town of Konjevic Polje in the eastern RS, despite the RS Ministry of Urban Planning’s 2004 decision that the church should be removed. In 2007 RS and Serb Orthodox Church officials agreed to relocate the church across the street, but it had not happened by the end of the reporting period; this was because ownership of the land to which the building would be moved was in dispute and subject of a separate pending court case by the Serb Orthodox Church against the company owning the potential site for relocation.
On May 21, the Srebrenica Basic Court had issued a verdict in the case of Fata Orlovic against the Zvornik/Tuzla eparchy (administrative unit) of the Serb Orthodox Church, declaring that the eparchy did not bear responsibility for confiscating private property and illegally constructing a church building on it.
The judge ruled that Orlovic should have submitted her case within three years of the church being built. On September 10, police in Bratunac had an altercation with the elderly landowner.
During the scuffle Orlovic sustained minor injuries. Although no Orthodox believers reside in Konjevic Polje, the local Orthodox bishop holds services in the church on Orlovic’s property each September. On September 27, the Bijeljina District Court rejected a new lawsuit that Orlovic had filed against the bishop that demanded removal of the church. Despite public statements by Orthodox authorities during the trials suggesting their continued willingness to move the church, the church remained on Orlovic’s property at year’s end.