NGOs Appeal for Help to U.S. Congress and European Parliament16. August 2012 - 10:37 — Dejan Georgievski
A coalition of non-governmental organizations from Bosnia and Herzegovina appealed, with an official email sent last Friday, August 10, 2012, to the U.S. Congress and the European Parliament to assist them in the efforts to prevent the adoption of constitutional changes proposed by SDP and HDZ political parties, and with the implementation of the court decision in the Sejdić-Finci vs. BiH case.
The NGO representatives say that constitutional amendments proposed by the two parties – the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) are discriminatory and in collision with European Convention of Human Rights. That is especially the fact with the so-called “value of votes” principle that the amendments bring to the table, devaluating the votes of all citizens that don’t belong to one of the three constitutional nations.
“The main objections are that the proposal lists issues that are in no way related to the Sejdić-Finci ruling, which are utterly discriminatory in nature and which introduce, we should say, some form of apartheid in BiH. They discuss the value of votes and creation of house of nations, especially in the BiH Federation, which would allocate different value to the votes of different people. In fact, the votes would be valued differently depending on the ethnic background of the voters. Those who are not members of one of the three constitutional nations would suffer since, depending on whether his or her vote is counted on national or entity level, that vote would be worth one seventh or one seventeenth of the vote cast by a member of the constitutional nations”, says Darko Brkan from the “Why not” (Zašto ne) civil association.
Jakob Finci, who sued BiH at the European Court of Human Rights, says that the proposal is very complicated and that it was not clear how it would be implemented on the ground.
“On the other hand, the solution proposed by SDP and HDZ doesn’t answer the issue of implementation of the Sjedić – Finci decision. The Court ruled that all citizens need to be allowed to run in the elections, not that they have to be elected, that we have to have a Presidency of four, or something along those lines. This reaction by the NGOs is totally appropriate and that is what civil society does. As far as its effects are concerned, that is another matter. I think that it is of greater importance for BiH to be able, when the country appears in front of the Human Rights Commission in Geneva next fall to present the situation of human rights in the country, to ensure that the NGO sector will also present its shadow report and explain the reality of the political situation. To explain what is going on with the political parties for which nobody can say with any certainty whether they are in government or in opposition, to we have a ruling coalition of six or seven parties, who makes the rules and who is in charge”, Finci says.
“The proposal made by SDP and HDZ refers to the Sejdić-Finci ruling only superficially and doesn’t really provide equal opportunity to minorities to take part in the political life in BiH. We believe that, instead of moving towards civil society, we now – 20 years after the war – have a situation in which political parties deepen the ethnic politics and divisions which, together with the economic crisis, is one of the main reasons for the lack of development in our society”, says Dražana Lepir, president of Banja Luka based “Oštra nula“ (Sharp Zero) NGO.
The August Deadline is Unrealistic
On the other hand, there is the question if BiH leaders will respect the first deadline listed in the Roadmap they accepted on June 27 in Brussels. That document notes that the draft changes of the Constitution should be ready and submitted to the Parliament by August 31.
Nebojša Radmanović, Member of the BiH Presidency, spoke about that issue last week.
“That is utterly unrealistic deadline – what the leaders of political parties agreed was to complete all activities regarding the decision of the Court in Strasbourg by the end of August, knowing that we failed, for several years, to synchronize the Constitution and we still hold the same positions we held several years ago. It is also unrealistic to expect that the same party leaders, helped by holders of executive power in BiH and the EU Enlargement Commissioner, will be able to act on their promise, to have everything done by the start of September of this year. That is just unrealistic”, Radmanović said.
The NGO coalition expresses concers about the possibility that the European Union, in the wish to report any progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina, to support the SDP/HDZ proposal without a critical review. Judging from the statement made by Doris Pack, the European Parliament Rapporteur on BiH, it is unlikely that European institutions will turn a blind eye to what is going on in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“The Sejdić-Finci case is important because it is about human rights, which have to be respected in BiH, just as they are respected everywhere in Europe. Find a solution and don’t ask us to do it for you. We can’t do that. Do it for the sake of your citizens”, Doris Pack said.
This is a summer vacation season, but also a time of evaluation what reaction the proposed amendments could provoke from the voters in the coming local elections. Therefore, it is difficult to expect for another, conditionally speaking more serious proposal for constitutional changes to appear.
Also, we shouldn’t forget that political leaders in BiH have tried, for two and a half years, everything in their power to circumvent the obligation to implement the court decision in the Sejdić-Finci case. MEP Jelko Kacin has the following message for them, for the MPs and government ministers in all levels of government:
“They have all boarder their own submarines and they all travel underwater. It is only when they resurface and leave their vessels that they see that the sky above is blue and that they need to talk about the horizons, not about the deep blue underneath”.
The letter to the U.S. Congress and the European Parliament was signed by Dervo Sejdić and Jakob Finci in their personal capacities, Kali Sara – Roma Information Centre (Sarajevo), UG Zašto ne (Sarajevo), ACIPS (Sarajevo), Citizens' Forum Tuzla, Sarajevo Open Centre, OKC Abrašević (Mostar), Legal Institute in BiH (Sarajevo), Oštra nula (Banja Luka), Euro Rom (Tuzla), Youth Initaitive for Human Rights (Sarajevo), Association for culture and arts CRVENA (Sarajevo), Akcija građana (Sarajevo), UNSA GETO (Banja Luka), REVOLT (Tuzla), Ekipa Foundation (Sarajevo), European Research Centre (Sarajevo), CURE Foundation (Sarajevo) and Foundation for Creative Development (Sarajevo). (Source: Radio Free Europe portal)
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