Bosnia and Herzegovina: Remnants of the war determine the review

Bosnian graves, reminders of the cruelties that took place during the war. Photo credit: The Holocaust Explained

The third periodic report of Bosnia and Herzegovina was reviewed by the Human Rights Committee on 14th and 15th March 2017. One of the main concerns expressed during the dialogue between the State delegation and Committee members was the lack of implementation of the Committee’s Views adopted under the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR. The webcast of the review is available here: part 1 and part 2

War crimes

A  great part of the dialogue was dedicated to discuss violations under the ICCPR in relation to the war period. In this sense, the Committee requested information on the prosecution of war crime cases, including wartime rape and sexual violence. The Committee also requested information about sanctions imposed on those found guilty of war crimes, wartime rape and other forms of sexual violence, and on adequate and comprehensive reparation to victims and their families. The issue of enforced disappearances and the efforts to investigate of all unresolved cases involving missing persons was also addressed during the dialogue, including the State obligation to provide psychological support to the families during the process of exhumation and identification of mortal remains.

The Committee made reference to several recommendations adopted by other UN bodies urging Bosnia and Herzegovina to repeal article 118 of the Criminal Code regarding the possibility of granting amnesty to war crimes. It also requested updates on the status of draft legislation and policy proposals such as

  • the draft national strategy on transitional justice;
  • the Programme for Improvement of the Status of Survivors of Conflict-related Sexual Violence;
  • the draft law on the rights of victims of torture;
  • and the draft law on free legal aid.

The State delegation replied that there have been delays in the adoption of the draft laws and policies, in some cases due to disagreements with the Republic of Srpska.

Discrimination against ethnic minorities

The State delegation highlighted the progress made to prevent and combat discrimination, namely the adoption of the Anti-Discrimination Law and the amendments to the criminal legislation with respect to the prohibition of inciting ethnic, racial and religious hatred and intolerance. However, the Committee expressed concern about the prevailing discrimination of ethnic minorities, in particular against Roma, with regard to access to housing, health care, employment and participation in public affairs. In relation to this last point, the Committee emphasised that the current electoral system is against the principle of non-discrimination as it only allows ethnic Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks to stand for elections, but other minorities, including Roma and Jews.

Recommendations of the Committee

The Concluding Observations for which the State should provide information on the implementation within one year, concern:

  • Crimes against humanity and other international crimes:
    • Expedite the prosecution of crimes against humanity
    • Provide adequate support, including psychological support, to victims and witnesses
    • Protect victims and witnesses of those crimes, particularly those related to sexual violence
    • Make the system of free legal aid fully operational throughout its territory to all vulnerable citizens
  • Enforced disappearance and missing persons
    • Expedite the investigation of all unresolved cases involving missing persons
    • Ensure that the Missing Persons Institute is adequately funded and able to fully implement its mandate
    • Establish the Fund for Support of Relatives of Missing Persons to provide adequate support to families of missing persons
  • Refugees and displaced persons:
    • Facilitate reintegration of returnees and internally displaced persons
    • Close collective centres and provide internally displaced persons with alternative housing solutions
    • Ensure access to services on an equal basis with refugees, including full access to family reunification and travel documents for persons granted with international subsidiary protection.

The next (fourth) periodic report of Bosnia and Herzegovina should be submitted by 29 March 2022. 

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