March 7, 2013 Human Rights Europe - In this podcast, international law expert Sheri Rosenberg discusses minority rights in Bosnia and the principles governing the international community’s intervention to stop murderous ethnic disputes.

The New York law professor explains the ’ responsibility to protect ‘ standard in international relations, which will be unveiled officially in New York next month and responds to the claim that some governments are tempted to use the protection of human rights as a pretext for foreign economic and political adventures.

“Since the 90’s, there’s no question that meat has been put on the bones of the resolve to prevent escalation or to intervene,” Rosenberg says. “We have just finished a two year research where we developed a common standard of assessment for applying the responsibility to protect principle.

“There is a counter to this sense that some states have of selectivity.

Rosenberg came to Strasbourg to urge Council of Europe member states’ backing for the December 2009 European Court of Human Rights judgement in the case of Sejdić and Finci v. Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The applicants Dervo Sejdić and Jakob Finci, are citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The former is of Roma origin and the latter is a Jew. They are both prominent public figures.

According to the judgement, the Bosnian Constitution, in its Preamble, makes a distinction between two categories of citizens: the so-called “constituent peoples” (Bosniacs, Croats and Serbs) and “others” (Jews, Roma and other national minorities together with those who do not declare affiliation with any ethnic group). The House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly (the second chamber) and the Presidency are composed only of persons belonging to the three constituent peoples.

Jakob Finci enquired with the Central Election Commission about his intentions to stand for election to the Presidency and the House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly. On 3 January 2007 he received a written confirmation from the Central Election Commission that he was ineligible to stand to such elections because of his Jewish origin.

The court concluded by 14 votes to 3 that the applicants’ continued ineligibility to stand for election to the House of Peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina lacked an objective and reasonable justification and had therefore breached Article 14 taken in conjunction with Article 3 of Protocol No. 1.

“It is of immense importance to the people of Bosnia,” Rosenberg adds. “The case provides for discrimination in the highest levels of political office which helps to maintain a divide society. Until that provision in the constitution and election law is changed which allows for anybody to run for public office regardless of their ethnicity, Bosnia will likely remain a divided society.”

The Essential

Information: Sheri Rosenberg – Director, Program in Holocaust and Human Rights Studies, Director, Human Rights and Genocide Clinic

Podcast: Live from the Dublin Intercultural Cities conference

Conference: Equal access for Europe’s minority language speakers

Information: Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities

News: Minority protection

Podcast: Safeguarding Europe’s language diversity

Podcast: Minority integration in Europe

Web File: Diversity In Europe