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map courtesy CIA World Factbook; click for enlargement Constitution, Government & Legislation

The 1995 General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Dayton Accords) ended the 1991-95 war and created the independent state of Bosnia and Herzegovina, previously one of the constituent republics of Yugoslavia. The agreement also created two multiethnic constituent entities within the state: The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Federation) and the Republika Srpska (RS). The Federation, which has a postwar Bosnian Muslim (Bosniak) and Croat majority, occupies 51 percent of the territory; the RS, which has a postwar Bosnian Serb majority, occupies 49 percent. The Constitution (Annex 4 of the Dayton Accords) establishes a statewide government with a bicameral legislature, a three-member presidency (consisting of a Bosniak, a Serb, and a Croat), a council of ministers, a constitutional court, and a central bank. The Accords also provided for the Office of the High Representative (OHR) to oversee implementation of civilian provisions. The High Representative also has the power to impose legislation and remove officials who obstruct the implementation of the Dayton Accords. The entities maintain separate armies, but under the Constitution, these are under the ultimate control of the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Parliamentary Assembly is the lawmaking body in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It consists of two houses: the House of Peoples and the House of Representatives. The House of Peoples includes 15 delegates, two-thirds of which come from the Muslim/Croat Federation (5 Croat and 5 Bosniaks) and one-third from the Republika Srpska (5 Serbs). Nine members of the House of Peoples constitutes a quorum, provided that at least three delegates from each group are present. Federation representatives are selected by the House of Peoples of the Federation, and RS representatives are selected by the RS National Assembly. The House of Representatives is comprised of 42 Members, two-thirds elected from the Federation and one-third elected from the RS. Federation representatives are elected directly by the voters of the Federation, and RS representatives are selected by the RS National Assembly (the National Assembly is directly elected by RS voters).

The Parliamentary Assembly is responsible for enacting legislation as necessary to implement decisions of the Presidency or to carry out the responsibilities of the Assembly under the Constitution; deciding upon the sources and amounts of revenues for the operations of the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina and international obligations of Bosnia and Herzegovina; approving a budget for the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina; deciding whether to consent to the ratification of treaties; and other matters as are necessary to carry out its duties of as are assigned to it by mutual agreement of the Entities.

The Presidency in Bosnia Herzegovina rotates among three members (Bosniak, Serb, Croat), each elected for a 4-year term. The three members of the Presidency are elected directly by the people (Federation votes for the Bosniak/Croat, RS for the Serb).

Sources: U.S. Department of State

Courts & Judgments

The Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the supreme, final arbiter of legal matters. It is composed of nine members: four members are selected by the House of Representatives of the Federation, two by the Assembly of the RS, and three by the President of the European Court of Human Rights after consultation with the Presidency. Terms of initial appointees are 5 years, unless they resign or are removed for cause by consensus of the other judges. Once appointed, judges are not eligible for reappointment. Judges subsequently appointed will serve until the age of 70, unless they resign or are removed for cause. Appointments made 5 years after the initial appointments may be governed by a different law of selection, to be determined by the Parliamentary Assembly.

Proceedings of the Court are public, and decisions will be published. Rules of court are adopted by a majority of the Court, and decisions are final and binding. The Constitutional Court's original jurisdiction lies in deciding any constitutional dispute that arises between the Entities or between Bosnia and Herzegovina and an Entity or Entities. Such disputes may be referred only by a member of the Presidency, by the Chair of the Council of Ministers, by the Chair or Deputy Chair of either chamber of the Parliamentary Assembly, or by one-fourth of the legislature of either Entity. The Court also has appellate jurisdiction within the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Both the Federation and the RS government have established lower court systems for their territories.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Human Rights

The Government's human rights record remained poor in 2001; although there were some improvements in a few areas, serious problems remained. The degree of respect for human rights continued to vary among areas with Bosniak, Bosnian Croat, and Bosnian Serb majorities. Police continued to abuse and physically mistreat detainees and other citizens. In the RS, police detained suspects for long periods of time before filing charges; lengthy prearraignment detention was also a problem in the Federation. However, there were fewer cases of arbitrary arrest and detention than in the previous year. Police commonly failed to act on complaints of police brutality and rarely were held accountable for their actions. Prison conditions met prisoners' basic minimum needs for hygiene and access to medical care; however, overcrowding and antiquated facilities continued to be problems. Although the RS Parliament passed a law on cooperation with the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in September, the RS continued its de facto refusal to take action against any Serbs indicted by the ICTY. In the Federation, the Government cooperated with the ICTY and facilitated the transfer of three Bosniak generals in August and of a Federation Government minister in September. The judiciary in both entities remained subject to influence by dominant political parties and by the executive branch. Overlapping and poorly defined layers of judicial responsibility and outdated procedures made the administration of justice sporadic and vulnerable to manipulation. Even when independent decisions were rendered, local authorities often refused to carry them out. Authorities in all areas infringed on citizens' privacy rights. The destruction of minority-owned houses continued in some areas of the RS and in Croat-controlled areas of the Federation.

Authorities and dominant political parties exerted influence over the media, and freedom of speech and of the press was restricted to varying degrees in the different entities. Government pressures against journalists remained high during the year, although threats of physical violence decreased. Academic freedom was restricted. Authorities continued to impose some limits on freedom of assembly and association. Both Governments and private groups continued to restrict religious practice by minorities in majority areas. Although freedom of movement continued to improve, some restrictions remained in practice. Police failed to ensure security for refugees returning to areas in which they were an ethnic minority.

Violence against women, in particular domestic violence, was a persistent yet underreported problem and discrimination against women persisted. Religious discrimination remained a problem. Severe discrimination against ethnic minorities continued in areas dominated by Serb and Croat ethnic groups, with some discrimination in Bosniak-majority areas, particularly regarding the treatment of refugees and displaced persons. Isolated instances of political, ethnic, or religious killings continued. The political leadership at all levels, in varying degrees but more so in the RS than in the Federation, continues to obstruct minority returns in certain localities. Members of society, organized by local authorities, harassed minorities and violently resisted their return in some areas. Enactment of property legislation to facilitate minority returns proceeded in both entities under pressure from the international community, but implementation was sporadic and slow. Trafficking in women and girls was a serious problem.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Legal Profession
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