December 22, 2009 / 12:31 PM / 10 years ago

European Court rules Bosnia constitution unfair

STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - Europe’s top human rights court ruled on Tuesday that the constitution of Bosnia, created as part of the country’s post-civil war settlement, discriminated against citizens who were not Serb, Croat or Muslim.

The ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, which in theory obliges Bosnia to reform its constitution, was issued following complaints by the head of a Roma association and the former head of the Jewish community of Sarajevo.

Both argued that their status prevented them from standing for election as president of the republic or as members of the upper house of parliament.

Under the constitution agreed under the 1995 Dayton accord, which ended the four year-long civil war in the multi-ethnic former Yugoslav republic, Bosnia and Herzegovina is composed of two entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Serb Republic.

The constitution contains a number of mechanisms designed to share power between the three “constituent peoples” who make up the bulk of the population but which limit the rights of other minorities.

“The court acknowledged that this system, put in place at a time when a fragile ceasefire had been accepted by all parties to the inter-ethnic conflict that had deeply affected the country, pursued the legitimate aim of restoring peace,” the court said.

It said that although the situation had improved considerably, “the time was perhaps still not ripe for a political system which abandoned the power-sharing mechanism in place and would be a simple reflection of majority rule”.

But it ruled that there were other power sharing mechanisms that did not automatically exclude everyone not part of the “constituent peoples”.

Reporting by Gilbert Reilhac; Writing by James Mackenzie

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