HRW urges Bosnia and Herzegovina to end discrimination against Roma

HRW urges Bosnia and Herzegovina to end discrimination against Roma

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[JURIST] Roma [JURIST news archive], Jews and Ukrainians in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) face exclusion from politics and public institutions, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [text, PDF; press release] Wednesday. The report identified the 1995 Bosnian Constitution as the root of the discrimination against minority groups. The constitutional provisions that enable political positions for Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs are now used to exclude Roma, Jews and other national minorities from politics. The Roma, who are the largest minority in BiH, suffer the most from discrimination. The report details a lack of stability and security for the Roma and their families due to forced evictions, which lead to inadequate housing conditions. This minority population also faces financial barriers to school enrollment and high unemployment rates. HRW called on the US and the EU to play a role in demanding constitutional amendments and access to services for minorities. The report outlined recommendations for BiH, including to:

Strengthen the constitutional protection of equality by ensuring it prohibits all forms of discrimination, direct and indirect; any law, policy, or other part of the constitution that violates this will be struck down by the Constitutional Court. It should recognize the need for temporary special measures to address indirect discrimination against particularly disadvantaged groups, such as the Roma, as permitted by international and European law.

HRW suggests that before BiH can begin negotiations to join the EU, the EU insist on constitutional amendments to eliminate ethnic discrimination.

The discrimination [JURIST comment] faced by Roma in European countries is not a recent development. In October the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] called on authorities [JURIST report] to end the hate speech and discrimination [press release] against the Roma migrants in Bulgaria. Last April Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] urged Serbian authorities to halt the forced evictions [JURIST report] of Roma in Belgrade and provide them with adequate housing and compensation. In March 2011 AI released a report [JURIST report] documenting discrimination and human rights violations against Roma migrants in Slovenia and urging the Slovenian government to protect Roma communities. The report revealed that Roma communities are being denied access to housing, water and sanitation. Much of the Roma population is living in overcrowded shacks without access to adequate health care services, schools, shops and employment.