ECHR Slams Bosnian Political System as Undermining Democracy


In a ruling on Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights said the privileges enjoyed by Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs undermine the “democratic character” of elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s political system puts ethnic representation ahead of all other considerations, grants Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs privileges denied to others, and amplifies ethnic divisions, the European Court of Human Rights, ECHR, ruled on Tuesday.

Such a system, the result of a US-brokered peace deal that ended the 1992-95 war in Bosnia with the creation of a highly decentralised arrangement of ethnic power-sharing, undermines “the democratic character of elections”, it said.

“The ‘constituent peoples’ (Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs) clearly enjoyed a privileged position in the current system.”

The scathing appraisal of Bosnia’s electoral system came in response to a case brought against Bosnia by political scientist and presidential adviser Slaven Kovacevic.

A resident of Sarajevo who does not declare affiliation to any particular ethnic group, Kovacevic alleged, according to the court, “that the candidates best representing his political views were not from the ‘right’ entity and/or of the ‘right’ ethnic origin, so he had not been able to vote for them in the 2022 legislative and presidential elections”.

Responding, Europe’s top rights court said: “No one should be forced to vote only according to prescribed ethnic lines, irrespective of their political viewpoint. Even if a system of ethnic representation were maintained in some form, it should be secondary to political representation, should not discriminate against ‘Others and citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina’ and should include ethnic representation from the entire territory of the State.”

It recalled a number of previous rulings that Bosnia has yet to implement.

“In particular, the Court saw no reason to depart from its previous case-law and in particular, Sejdic and Finci, Zornic, and Pilav in which the Court found discrimination against persons not affiliated with the three main ethnic groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina, or those failing to meet a combination of the requirements of ethnic origin and place of residence as regards their right to stand for election to the House of Peoples and the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

Source : Balkaninsight