Roma are second class citizens in Bosnia, the latest Human Rights Watch, HRW, report says, urging the country to end the discrimination against minorities.
Bosnia has to end the exclusion of Roma, Jews and other minorities from participating in national politics, states Human Rights Watch report, released on April 4 in Sarajevo.
The report highlights the need for Bosnia to implement the 2009 Sejdic and Finci human rights ruling, which stipulates that the constitution and other laws have to be changed in order to allow minorities to run for the top governing posts.
According to current laws, posts at the Bosnian presidency and the state parliament are reserved only for representatives of the three largest ethnic groups, Bosniaks [Bosnian Muslims], Serbs and Croats.
Dervo Sejdic, Roma activist, who won his case against Bosnia at the European Court of Human Rights in 2009, told Balkan Insight that he still does not see a solution due to a lack of political will to implement the ruling.
“I think the political elites are afraid of losing their current status in political life. I do not know why they are afraid of everyone having equal rights and opportunities,” Sejdic said.
“I cannot see where these unfounded fears come from – especially if they are as pro-European and pro-civil society oriented as they claim.”
The HRW report highlights discrimination against minorities in politics and government due to Bosnia’s discriminatory constitution.
Benjamin Ward, deputy director of Europe and Central Asia HRW, said that the Bosnian 1995 Constitution, stemming from the Dayton Peace Accords, was designed only to end the 1992-95 war in the country.
“Roma experience discrimination and abuse across Europe. The difference in Bosnia is that their exclusion from national politics and the local government prevents their plight from even being recognized,” Ward said.
The HRW report also elaborates on the daily discrimination of Roma in accessing housing, education, and employment.
Current estimations are that there are around 100,000 Roma living in Bosnia, many of them in informal settlements that lack stability and security.
The report states that forced evictions have been a problem, in particular in the southern town of Mostar, where some Roma families have been evicted twice in the past two years, and no adequate housing has been provided for them following the evictions.
Most Roma families cannot afford the cost of schooling and as a result Roma children have low rates of school attendance in many parts of the country. According to the report only a third of Roma children attend primary school.
As for employment, the main activity of Roma, including children, is recycling scrap metals and begging on the streets.
Although the government has established an employment program for Roma, very few Roma or employers have participated, because few of them are officially registered as unemployed.
According to HRW, Bosnia has made high-level commitments to resolve the situation of Roma, but little has been achieved in practice, partly because of the low priority the political leadership has given to improving their situation.
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