bosnia report
No. 19 June - August 1997
 
Declaration of the Serb C.C.
by Declaration of the Serb Civic Council of Bosnia-Herzegovine on the Human Right to Political and National Equality.

Inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by international covenants on civil and political rights and on economic, social and cultural rights, as well as by other human rights instruments,

Believing that full national equality is one of the most important means of realizing the human rights, life and progress of citizens and peoples, especially in multi-national states and societies,

Proceeding from the fact that without the full exercise of human rights, particularly in the field of national equality, a democratic Bosnia-Herzegovina is not possible as an internationally recognised state, nor is progress possible in implementing the peace process,

we conclude

  1. In Annex 4 ('Constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina') of the agreements adopted in Dayton and signed in Paris on 14 December 1995, which are internationally guaranteed, the Preamble clearly guarantees the national equality of all peoples throughout the entire territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina [B-H], with the clause: 'Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs, as constituent peoples (along with Others) and citizens of B-H, hereby determine that the Constitution of B-H is as follows.'

    The constituent status of its peoples is here the basis for their full national equality throughout the eÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌ`ntire territory of B-H.

  2. This fundamental provision is not given consistent legal expression in the normative text of the Constitution of B-H, thus in part allowing incorrect interpretations and practical activities that are in total contradiction with this constitutional principle.

  3. The constitutions of the Federation of B-H [Federation] and Republika Srpska ([RS], even after formal harmonization with the Constitution of B-H, do not include provisions for the constituent status of Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs on the territory of these two entities of which B-H as a whole is made up. On the contrary, in contravention of the B-H Constitution, under the Constitution of the Federation only Bosniaks and Croats are constituent peoples on its territory, and under the Constitution of RS only the Serb people is constituent on its territory. This is clearly a drastic violation of the B-H Constitution.

  4. In real life, this violation of the B-H Constitution directly threatens the basic human rights of citizens of all three peoples, albeit on different parts of the territory of B-H. Bosniaks and Croats are national minorities on the territory of RS, without any appropriate protection based on international documents, while Serbs are a national minority on the territory of the Federation. In view of the fact that the criterion o national representation is applied in B-H's organs of power, the right of Serbs from Federation territory to be elected to B-H bodies is de facto abolished, just as it is for Bosniaks and Croats living on the territory of RS. This is a typical example of ethnic apartheid, which harms all three peoples in a state that ought to be common. For the same reasons the rights and possibilities are significantly restricted, on Federation and RS territory, for members of certain constituent peoples of B-H to be elected to executives organs of power, as is the case also with respect of employment, education, culture, religion etc. This endangers the multinational identity of B-H, whose tradition embodies coexistence and the constituent status of all three peoples on its territory.

  5. It is clear that within the framework of the existing discriminatory selection of constituent peoples in the constitutions of the Federation and RS, which determines members of all three peoples as second-class citizens - Bosniaks and Croats in RS, Serbs in the Federation, one cannot expect the return of refugees and displaced persons to their homes. Serbs will not to back to the Federation nor will Bosniaks and Croats return to RS, because - in addition to all the great security problems and the obstacles imposed directly or indirectly in that respect by the authorities - they will not want to accept the position of second-class citizens or the impossibility of exercising their human rights.

At the same time, this further encourages Bosniaks and Croats to move out of RS and Serbs out of the Federation, thus further feeding the process of ethnic cleansing instead of persuading people to return or stay put.

Proceeding from the facts here adduced, we judge that the violation of the B-H Constitution threatens the basic human rights and the national equality of all citizens of B-H, Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs; and that this in turn threatens the stabilization of the peace process, the reconstruction of a democratic society in B-H, and even the very existence of B-H as a state.

Therefore - remaining consistent in the struggle for human rights and national equality; for a united and democratic B-H, a state of equal and constituent peoples, Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs - we launch this initiative for changes to the constitution of B-H, the Federation and RS, and propose adoption of the following amendments:

  1. Amendment to the Constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina
    In Article II, 'Human rights and fundamental freedoms,' CÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌ`lause 1, 'Human rights,' after the first sentence add the paragraph:

    'National equality is provided for, as an essential element of human rights, so that in B-H on the territory of both entities - Federation and RS - Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs are constituent peoples.'

  2. Amendment to the Constitution of the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
    In Article I, the beginning of Paragraph 1 of the Federation Constitution, the existing text should be replaced by the following:

    'The Federation is based on the equality of its citizens and the constituent status of its peoples, Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs. The constituent peoples ...' (followed by the existing text after the comma in the first sentence).

  3. Amendment to the Constitution of RS
    In Chapter I, 'Fundamental Provisions,' Article 1, the existing text should be replaced by the following:

    'Republika Srpska is based on the equality of its citizens and the constituent status of its peoples, Serbs, Bosniaks and Croats.'

We also propose that the obligation of changing the constitutions of the Federation and RS so that these are harmonized with the Constitution of B-H - whether in its existing text or the one modified by our Amendment - should in this case, and until such time as it has been implemented in full, be the subject of close attention and vigorous activity on the part of the UN, the EU, the Contact Group countries and all other international factors.

We call upon all people of good will, all social and political forces and all organizations committed to a democratic and secular B-H, to its multi-ethnic, multi-national and multi-faith identity and to the real provision of human rights regardless of religion or nation, to support this initiative an to advocate its realization, through constitutional changes and through changes in practice with respect of employment, education, religion, culture, etc.

This declaration is addressed to the UN, to the EU, to His Holiness Pope John Paul II, to the Islamic Religious Community, to the Serb Orthodox Church, to the presidents of the USA, Russia, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, and of Croatia and FR Yugoslavia, to all ambassadors accredited in B-H, to the parliaments of B-H, the Federation and RS, to the Office of the High Representative, to the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to B-H, and to the Mission of the OSCE.

Sarajevo, 4 April, 1997.

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