The amendments to the Election Law, which Dragan Čović, HDZ BiH President, HNS BiH and BiH Presidency Member, calls a priority, are the basis for a new election model for electing two members of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, those of the Bosniaks and Croats people, and for the election of delegates to the House of Peoples in the FBiH Parliament. Critics say that the amendments do not address discrimination against BiH citizens, which has long been confirmed by judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in the cases of Zornić, Sejdić - Finci and Pilav, but instead discriminate within the Croatian people, and only distance BiH further from the EU.
The Croatian question
Jakob Finci, a BiH citizen, won a judgment by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg eight years ago, but still has no right to be elected to the BiH Presidency and says he is very disappointed.
"It's been eight years since the verdict was passed, and we knew eight years earlier what the verdict would be. When BiH entered into the Council of Europe, we accepted to implement the changes, but nothing has been done yet. Those who are the loudest activists for BiH's entry into the EU have simply forgotten that this is one of the main conditions we still need to fulfill. We can agree on how to answer 3,242 questions, we can agree that the system of coordination works, but the acquis states that we cannot become a candidate country without the implementation of Sejdić-Finci, i.e., without the equal treatment of all BiH citizens in the election law. The case of Sejdić and Finci suddenly became "a Croatian question." There has always been a representative of the Croatian people elected to the Presidency of BiH. We are blocking our own European path, and that is why we are increasingly looking like Turkey after this referendum, which means we are losing all chances of Europe treating us seriously. We are always saying how much we want to enter the EU, but we are doing everything against European rules. I am very disappointed and sad that my country has come to this," Finci says.
The European Court also ruled in favor of Ilijaz Pilav, a Bosniak from RS, and he too cannot yet be elected a member of the BiH Presidency.
"We have long known about Dragan Čović's aspirations to ensure that a HDZ member is continously elected to the BiH Presidency. Right now we are talking about his extravagant political desires to rephrase the judgments of Sejdić and Finci, Zornić, which concern discrimination of minorities on the entire territory of BiH, as "Croatian issues." I think that with HNS's amendments we are introducing a type of discrimination against people who do not live in a dominant ethnoteritorial territory, where more importance is given to Croats living in Herzegovina than to those living in Posavina or Central Bosnia or Sarajevo... Instead of addressing the discriminations in our laws and the Constitution, we are introducing new ones through these changes to the Election Law," Pilav says.
Legal expert and former member of the BiH Election Commission Vehid Šehić says that political parties have the right to make proposals, but the BiH Parliamentary Assembly needs to implement the decisions of the Constitutional Court regarding Mostar and Boža Ljubić, but also the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
"It is impossible to selectively choose to implement court decisions. We see what the BiH Parliametary Assembly will say. The demands that the Croatian member of the Presidency must have the legitimacy of their own people can be solved in a different way other than by virtually creating electoral units. This is unacceptable because, rather than discriminating against one nation, discriminates against those who do not belong to a certain political party. This is the problem where we now have "true" Croats, Serbs, and Bosniaks, and then those who think differently than the political parties who think it is acceptable that they exclusively represent their people. The basic question is whether we will remove the discriminatory provisions that exist in our Constitution but have clearly been rejected by the European Court of Human Rights? What about the implementation of the Sejdić-Finci judgment, Pilav's verdict, and Zornić's special decision?" says Šehić.
Prof. Slavo Kukić reminds us that nothing sensational happened during the last session of the BiH Croatian National Assembly (HNS) Presidency: "The HDZ leader's use of a non-governmental organization to put pressure on his coalition partners at the BiH and the FBiH level is not aimed at achieving changes in BiH by bringing us closer to Europe, of which he often speaks, but has the primary aim of amending one small part of the Election Law - the one that would lead to a change in the election of the members of the Presidency, which would ensured him presidency for life and which protects him from possible criminal persecutions."
Kukić notes that Čović stated that the proposed changes do not include the verdicts of the Court in Strasbourg, but only the verdict of the Constitutional Court of BiH in connection with the appeal of Boža Ljubić: "He forgot to mention that the proposed amendment by the HNS, or in fact the HDZ, are proposing the type of discrimination they supposedly want to address, therefore not removing discrimination, but reinforcing it. Discrimination is strengthened among the Croats, for whose equality he portrays to be interested in. He is creating Croats of the first and second-order. There are the Croats living in the Croat-majority cantons, in the territory of Herzegovina, and the rest, the Croatians of the second order, about who the Catholic Church spoke during the Christmas period."
The future of non-Croats
Even though Čović said that the HNS initiative was unrelated to the 2018 elections, the Civil Society Alliance (GS) yesterday warned that this is the first step in the plan with the ultimate goal to prevent the holding of elections or implementing electoral results in 2018: "HDZ has already tried it 16 years ago, and it is obvious that they never gave up on the idea of the ghettoization of the majority in BiH. Unlike 16 years ago, today in BiH there is no significant military presence of the international community and there is no guarantee that anyone would be able to stop violence breaking out. There is no doubt that, unlike his coalition partners from Sarajevo, Čović is ready to go all the way, primarily by establishing an Croatian capital on the territory of BiH, to rebuild Herceg-Bosna. The third constituency is just another name for Herceg-Bosna. We can already see what the fate of a non-Croat would be in such a constituency. Undermining minorities and apartheid are two basic features of their policy."
Translated by: Tea IVANOVIĆ
(Original version: Nova diskriminacija kuca na vrata PSBiH)