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Europe rights court rules Bosnia constitution illegally discriminates

[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] ruled [judgment text; press release] Tuesday that Bosnia's constitution [text] illegally discriminates against ethnic minorities by not allowing them to run for high political office. The Bosnian Constitution distinguishes between "constituent peoples," which include Bosniacs, Croats, and Serbs, and "others," which include Jews, Roma, and other ethnic minorities. Only "constituent peoples" are eligible to run for parliament or the three-part presidency. The complaint was filed with the ECHR in 2006 by Dervo Sejdic, a Roma, and Jakob Finci, a Jew, after Finci inquired about running for parliament or the presidency and was told that he was not eligible. The ECHR found that the Bosnian Constitution violates the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF], which prohibits discrimination and upholds the right to free elections. The ruling requires Bosnia to amend its constitution.

The Bosnian Constitution was agreed to in 1995 as part of the Dayton Accord [USDOS materials], ending a four-year civil war. It was designed to share power between the three majority ethnic groups, but limits power for ethnic minorities. Bosnia reached an agreement with the European Union in 2008 to bring its constitution in line with the European Convention on Human Rights.

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