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news 02 Jul 13

Bosnian ‘Baby Protesters’ Vent Anger at Politicians

Thousands rallied in Sarajevo to demand the ousting of politicians whose failure to agree legislation on personal ID numbers has prevented sick babies from getting treatment abroad.

Elvira M. Jukic
BIRN
Sarajevo

Several thousand people gathered on Monday outside the state parliament in Sarajevo for a protest announced to symbolically ‘fire’ governing politicians whose failure to agree the ID legislation has caused anger in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

 

Protesters on July 1 / Photo by Amel Emric, AP

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The rally continued throughout the day, with a constant crowd of some 3,000 people protesting in the Square of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the city centre.

It ended with a decision to appeal to High Representative Valentin Inzko, the top international official in the country, to intervene and force the politicians to take urgent action to enable newborn babies to get personal ID numbers which are the basis for obtaining other crucial documents such as passports.

A letter sent to Inzko by the protesters urged him to “intervene in the legal system of Bosnia and Herzegovina” to ensure that a constitutional court ruling creating the basis for permanent legislation on ID numbers is implemented.

The protesters on Monday also wrote to the Council of Europe, saying they had “fired” their politicians and demanding that the ID problem be solved.

“Their [politicians'] over-average wages, enormously high salaries, are not an appropriate reward for the results of their work,” the letter said.

  Protesters holding banners saying politicians should be fired
Photo by Adi Kebo, zurnal.info

The ‘baby protests’ erupted in Sarajevo a month ago, after newborn Belmina Ibrisevic, who needed leave for Germany for an operation, was initially unable to get travel documents because of the lack of ID legislation.

Thousands took to the streets demanding that the authorities and the administration “stop killing their own children”.

The Bosnian state-level government reacted by adopting a temporary measure to allow the issuing of personal numbers, but parliament did not meet to address the long-term problem because some MPs refused to attend sessions, citing security concerns over the protests.

The demonstration on Monday however was much smaller than previous rallies and protesters agreed to suspend their actions after appealing to Inzko to get involved.

The problem with personal ID numbers dates back two years to a constitutional court decision that the legislation governing the issue should be changed in order to reflect the changed names of several municipalities in the country.

But the ruling was not implemented by lawmakers, causing the court in February this year to declare the law unconstitutional and abolish it, meaning that no newborn baby was able to get a personal number.

The protests over ID numbers spread to other cities in the country and also inspired many to travel to Sarajevo to join the rallies.

Organisers have expressed satisfaction that citizens have showed that they are willing to take action to combat political injustice but some media have called the protests a failure because they did not achieve their goal of forcing lawmakers to address the ID problem.

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