Bosnia and Herzegovina: 10 year old anti-discrimination legislation put to the test

Published: December 14, 2018
Vaša Prava Director Emir Prcanović at his opening remarks
Vaša Prava Director Emir Prcanović at his opening remarks
Bosnia and Herzegovina

On 12 December 2018, the IRZ organised another conference in Sarajevo together with the non-governmental organisation Vaša Prava. Vaša Prava operates a cross-entity network of legal advice bureaus for victims and people in need. The conference, which was financed by funds from the German Federal Foreign Office allocated to Germany’s contribution to the Stability Pact for South-East Europe, focussed on the practical application of the “law prohibiting discrimination” in the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was held on the tenth anniversary of the law coming into effect.

Following on from the opening of the event by Vaša Prava Director Emir Prcanović, there were two speeches to establish the theoretical foundations. These speeches referred to numerous practical cases. The speakers were Professor Dr. Zlatan Meskić, Zenica, who studied and obtained his doctorate in Vienna, and the German lawyer, Holger Hembach, who has gained a great deal of experience in the region as a former employee of the OSCE in Macedonia and Serbia.

These opening lectures were followed by speeches on the application of the anti-discrimination law in Bosnia and Herzegovina. These speeches were made by Ahmet Salčin and Adnan Kadribašić. They not only provided information on jurisdiction in practice, but also gave specific advice on the appropriate formulation of claims.

Following on from these lectures, lively discussions took place, during which the participants were also able to talk about their own experiences as advisers and representatives of the citizens concerned. The discussions led to the identification of various problem areas, which need to be dealt with in future. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, there have been some cases of discrimination, which have attracted interest nationwide. Overall, however, the number of these kinds of legal disputes is much lower than might have been expected, given the social relations in the country. One of the reasons for this may be that there is still a lack of awareness amongst the general population that it is possible to successfully bring a court case against discrimination. Another cause, however, may be inconsistent jurisdiction, which is often even contradictory within the same court. Some of the people participating in the discussions believed that this was caused by the fact that, due to the specific nature of the state structure in Bosnia and Herzegovina, there is no Supreme Court for the country as a whole.

The sustainability of the event was supported by providing all the participants with two comprehensive books, published in their own language, on the relevant case law of the ECtHR and of the ECJ, which were produced by the IRZ for previous projects.