news 05 Jun 13

Bosnia's Feuding Leaders Give Ground on ID Row

Authorities announce temporary solution to ID dispute after haggling over law obstructed a baby's urgent departure for Germany for a life-saving operation.

Elvira M. Jukic

Bosnia's Council of Ministers has adopted a temporary measure on issuing personal numbers in the country, after pressure grew on politicians to act.

The measure will be valid for 180 days, the government said, and will not influence the ongoing dispute over a law on personal numbers.

Pressure mounted on the authorities after the parents and doctors of a sick baby girl called Belmina Ibrisevic said her life was at risk as a result of the logjam.

She urgently needs a bone marrow operation in Germany but cannot legally leave the country since she has not got a personal number without which she cannot get a passport.

The Council of Ministers, the Bosnia's state-level government, has repeatedly failed to adopt a new law on personal numbers - the number that every citizen obtains after birth.

The number then serves as a basis for all subsequent documents, including ID cards, passports and heath care cards.

Although a government session was due to address the issue on June 5, the chances of permanently resolving the dilemma, which arose in February, remain small, the responsible minister, Sredoje Novic, has said, noting that the problem is not technical in nature but political.

Belmina's parents, Fatima and Edmir Ibrisevic, as well as the child's doctors in Sarajevo, say it is imperative that the baby goes to Germany as the operation cannot be undertaken at home.

“We have to go abroad for... transplantation of bone marrow,” Fatima told the media. “But when my husband went to the Interior Ministry to get a passport for our baby they told him their hands were tied.

“We are desperate and fear this will be an obstacle for our child to obtain medication,” she added.

The problem arose after Bosnia's Constitutional Court abolished the existing law on IDs in February, saying the names of several municipalities in the country had to be changed first.

Bosnian Serb MPs in the State Parliament had complained that the law also did not respect the boundary between the country’s two autonomous entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska.

Some lawmakers from the Federation entity proposed adapting the existing law to take account of the court ruling but their colleagues from Republika Srpska wanted the law changed comprehensively.

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