Sunday, December 27, 2009

Discrimination! Going After Bosnia's Constitution

On Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled that the Constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina discriminated against minorities by allowing only Serbs, Croats, and Muslims to run for certain public office. The lawsuit was filed several years ago by Jakob Finci, a Jew, and Dervo Sejdic, a Rom, prompting countless headlines along the lines of "Bosnia discriminates against Jews and Roma."
As is usually the case with anything concerning Bosnia, the truth is somewhat more complicated that a sound bite.
The said Constitution was drafted in 1995 as one annex of the Dayton Accords, the peace agreement that put an end to three and a half years of vicious civil war. Its authors are not Bosnian, but rather Western diplomats, led by U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke. Most of the provisions in the peace treaty focused on a power-sharing arrangement between Bosnia’s three principal ethnic communities, the Muslims (calling themselves Bosniaks), the Serbs, and the Croats. Collective rights of ethnic communities thus took precedence over individual civil rights.

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