Testo d'approfondimento parte della "Guida Minoranze"

19/07/2002 -  Anonymous User

General features

According to the census 1991, Bosnia and Herzegovina had 4,38 million of inhabitants, and national structure was:

- Muslims 1,9 million (43,7%)

- Serbs 1,4 million (31,4%)

- Croats 756,000 (17,3%)

- Yugoslavs 240,000 (5,5%)

- Roma and others 100,00 (2,1%)

In April 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina proclaimed its independence. This brought to the bloody war in the period 1992-1995. By signing the Dayton Agreement, in November 1995, the end of the war was proclaimed and peace came. The results of three and half year of the war were: several hundred thousands of dead, more than twenty thousand disappeared, about two million of expelled and displaced persons, thousands of handicapped, destroyed economy and industry. The war caused big changes in a demographic structure, thus presently there are no an accurate information on a new demographic structure and number of the population.

The present state of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the citizens in Bosnia and Herzegovina is at the very low level. A great number of citizens is deprived of elementary rights to live in their own home and to use their property, freedom of movement is difficult and risky, the education system is under strong influence of ethnically dominated political and state authorities in certain territories, and there is an evident discrimination in the field of employment.

Economic situation is also very bad. The majority of citizens in Bosnia and Herzegovina live on the edge of existence. The economy does not function, and a great number of population capable of working have no job. The majority of population still lives on foreign donations which are less and less everyday.

From the moment of obtaining independence, Bosnia and Herzegovina has adopted and signed all the most important international documents concerning protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms as well as the rights of national minorities. However, Bosnia and Herzegovina has not until now brought the law on minorities, and instead of it, international conventions dealing with this category are being used.

Participation in public life

The status of ethnic minorities is adequate to the political and economic environment governing in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnia and Herzegovina is composed of two entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Srpska. The position of ethnic minorities, primarily Romas is almost the same in both entities-very bad and disturbing.
Before the war, about 25 minority groups, very small in number, excepting Romas, existed in Bosnia and Herzegovina. After the war, there remained only Romas and Jews out of minority groups.
The Romas belong to the largest minority group. It is estimated that about 6,000 Romas are presently living in Bosna and Herzegovina. Apart from Roma population in Bosnia and Herzegovina there is also a Jew minority, numbering to several hundred of members.
However, the reality is quite different as compared to the Constitution of BH and the Dayton Accord. The present national political authorities take care for their "own national corps" so that no one cares about the so called "classical national minorities", Romas in this case. It can be said that the national political authorities behave in such manner, as the minorities do not exist at all. Currently, the Roma minority does not have its representative in the Parliament of the BH Federation, nor there any signs that they will get one soon.
A special attention is to be given to the so-called "new-minorities" which were created as a direct consequence of the war, that is, of the "ethnic cleansing" and persecution, and which are characteristic only for Bosnia and Herzegovina. They are composed of the members of all the three Bosnian and Herzegovinian peoples (Bosniaks, Croats, Serbs) who live in the entity whose constitution does not determine their people as constitutional.
The "new minorities" include the members of three constitutional people (Croats, Bosniaks, Serbs) who do not constitute the majority in the entity they live in.

Language and education

According the Art. 10 of the Constitution of the Bosnia and Herzegovina, the parties undertake to guarantee the right to every person belonging to a national minority to be informed promptly, in a language which he or she understands, of the reasons for his or her arrest, and of the nature and cause of any accusation against him or her, and to defend himself or herself in this language, if necessary with the free assistance of an interpreter.

The official languages of the Federation are the Bosnian and the Croatian language with Latin alphabet as the official script, there is a possibility that other languages may also be used as means of communication and instruction.
The Serbian language and the Cyrillic alphabet is in official use in the Republic of Srpska, while the Latin alphabet may be used as specified by the law. In regions inhabited by groups speaking other languages, their languages and alphabet is also in official use, as specified by law.
In the Constitution of both BH entities, there is a possibility left that the members of minorities can use their languages in everyday communication, and in education as well. There are no available data that the lessons are being held in Roma language for children anywhere in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In the respective territories of Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats the national elite have considerable influence upon education, since it is of great importance for the development of a national identity. So education remains one of the most politicised spheres in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Consequently, different languages, histories and ethics are taught. In each territory curricula and textbooks are provided which stimulate ethnic separation and national prejudices, while minority issues and human rights education are not incorporated in any curricula. This refers especially to the problem of returnee children who do not belong to the majority group and have to be integrated into the local educational system.


Today about 168 radio stations and 138 newspapers and reviews are operating in the country. This growth was stimulated by the Dayton Accord and by foreign donors who support independent journalism. But, most of the media are still restricted to their territory and are still included into three media systems according to the ethnic division of the country. The media sector is also split up between the state media and private independent ones.

According the Art. 9 the parties undertake to recognise that the right to freedom of expression of every person belonging to a national minority includes freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas in the minority language, without interference by public authorities and regardless of frontiers. The parties should ensure, within the framework of their legal systems, that persons belonging to a national minority are not discriminated against in their access to media.
Some media in the territory of the BH Federation as well as some in the Republic of Srpska, show their interest in the position and problems of Romas, giving objective and detailed information as well as corresponding critical relation toward the state and political bodies which do not show that they care for their rights.
Unfortunately, there are neither TV nor radio broadcasts edited and led in the languages of minority peoples.


Through the Dayton Accord the rights and freedoms under the European Convention on Human Rights were implemented in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The ruling political elite try to evade the fulfilment of these obligations when their power, which is based on ethnic division, is endangered. In practice, human rights are often defined as the human rights of one's respective nationality.
In spite of that, there are cases of locals who prevent refugees from the respective other nationalities come to visit their properties even though that is guaranteed in the Constitution of the country under the Art. 3.

Therefore, it is necessary to make correction in the Constitution in both entities so that all the three peoples be constitutional in both entities. This would create preconditions for the implementation of the Annex 7 to the Dayton Peace Agreement, according to which all refugees and displaced persons have right to return to their homes from which they have been expelled during the war, have right to return their property which had been taken away from them during the war and the right for compensation for the property which can not be given back.

Further Information:

Country Analyses: Bosnia and Herzegovina