The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Bosnia violated the rights of Jews and Roma [gypsies] and others by barring them from running for the country’s legislature or presidency. The decision is binding on Bosnia, which was ordered to pay legal costs of $28,500 to Jewish activist Jakob Finci and $1,500 to Dervo Sejdic of the Roma community. Finci also serves as the country's ambassador to the Swiss Confederation.
The two men filed the suit in France. Finci showed the court a letter from Bosnia officials stating that he cannot run for office because he is Jewish, a stipulation that was included in its constitution when it was written in the United States in an effort to halt the country’s war that raged in the early 1990s.
A Bosnian political party that backs abolishing the official ethnic separation hailed the court’s ruling.
Finci said he was "delighted that the European Court has recognized the wrong that was done in the Constitution 14 years ago," and he urged that changes be made immediately in the constitution. It currently reserves legislators and the president for Bosniacs, Croats and Serbs. Attempts to change the constitution, which would help pave the way for Bosnia to join the European Union, are still in progress. Bosnian Serbs have objected to the proposed changes.
The Dayton, Ohio peace accord, where the constitution was drafted, linked the Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat Federation with a three-part presidency of a Bosniak, Serb and Croat.
The European Human Rights Court acknowledged that the constitution and discriminatory clauses had been accepted by all groups but added that Bosnia agreed two years ago to conform with the European standards for human rights and eliminate the bias.