On the occasion of Human Rights Day on 10 December, the University of Sarajevo’ s Faculty of Law, with the support of the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), hosted a conference titled “Freedom of Religion or Belief: Contemporary Challenges and Perspectives” in Sarajevo.
The conference provided a platform for representatives from the judiciary, state ministries, the Institution of the Human Rights Ombudsmen of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the academic community, and non-governmental organizations to engage with Bosnia and Herzegovina’s legislation and legal practices. It also sought to explore best practices from other countries regarding the right to freedom of religion or belief as an individual right.
Thomas Busch, Deputy Head of the OSCE Mission to BiH, emphasized: ” As a country rich with religious diversity, Bosnia and Herzegovina must regulate, facilitate, protect and promote this important freedom inclusively and without discrimination, in line with international standards and best practices. The exchange of global and local experience is invaluable for the advancement of this right and fulfilment of the relevant OSCE commitments and international standards.”
The conference, held just days before the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, provided a significant opportunity to assess achievements and challenges in Bosnia and Herzegovina and elsewhere in upholding these foundational principles of inclusive and peaceful societies.
Ahmed Saheed, former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief and current member of the OSCE/ODHIR Panel of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief, said: “As a universal right, it rests on the shared and reciprocal commitments of all moral agents to respect the freedoms of everyone to search for their own truths and pursue their life-plans. It frees and generates spiritual, intellectual and cultural resources to enrich personal and social life”. He also highlighted the universality of this right: “It thus demands and creates the spaces and conditions necessary to build social trust, allyship and societal resilience, and is a particularly useful and resourceful bulwark against intolerant attitudes towards extending these freedoms to all.”
Zinka Grbo, Dean of the University of Sarajevo’ s Faculty of Law, said: “Freedom of religion or belief is faced with the challenges of every era, while globally it has not stopped being a neuralgic subject in social relations, in the widest possible sense. It is a perennial distinguishing point in interpersonal relations, although all religions and beliefs have the same origin.”