Bosnia and Herzegovina

Roma activist sues Bosnia again after country did not let him run for president

Published Monday November 1st, 2010

Roma activist sues Bosnia again after country did not let him run for president

A Roma activist said Monday he has sued Bosnia at the European Court of Human Rights because the country never implemented that court's previous ruling: to allow him to run for president although he is of Roma ethnicity.

The court in Strasbourg, France, ruled in December that Bosnia's constitution must be changed because it discriminates against minorities by not allowing them to run for parliament or president.

Dervo Sejdic, along with Bosnian Jew activist Jakob Finci, sued their country last year for human rights violations and won the case.

Sejdic said Bosnian leaders never implemented the court's order and is suing again, demanding compensation. The constitution says a president has to be a member of one of the three dominant ethnic groups in the country: a Muslim Bosniak, a Croat or a Serb.

Internationally mediated talks to change the constitution and give the country a chance to join the European Union were delayed for after the October elections when it became clear that Bosnia's leaders were not able to agree on how to change it and how to implement the court's ruling.

According to the Peace Agreement and the Constitution from 1995, Bosnia is divided into two ministates — the Bosnian Serb republic and a federation of Bosniaks and Croats. The two are linked by weak central institutions whose authority sometimes overlaps with the influence of the ministates.

The EU has demanded that the constitution be changed so it gives more power to the central government.

It wasn't immediately clear when the new parliament will be inaugurated and when it would get started on changing the constitution because of internal divisions between Bosnian Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks that have engulfed the country for nearly two decades.

The Serbs vehemently oppose the plan to amend the constitution because they fear a change of the current political setup would dilute the autonomy of their ministate.

Bosniaks, on the other hand, agree with the EU request. Croats also agree with the concept, but say if the country remains divided, then they want their own ministate too, instead of sharing one with the Bosniaks.

"Of course, the court won't discuss the discrimination issue again, so this time I'm requesting compensation, implementation of the ruling and ... I want them to put pressure on the Bosnian authorities to implement it," Sejdic told The Associated Press.

Finci and Sejdic filed a complaint in June 2009 and added to the lawsuit a letter Finci received from the Bosnian election commission saying he is ineligible to run for the presidency or parliament because he is Jewish.

Before this year's elections on Oct. 3, Sejdic wrote to Bosnia's election commission saying the constitution had still not been changed despite the court's ruling and the discriminatory rule has not been removed.

"I asked them if I as a Roma can run for the presidency ... and they replied to me that only" a Muslim Bosniak, a Croat or a Serb "can run for that post," Sejdic said.

"I decided to turn to the European Court of Human Rights again after the elections," he said.

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