Between January and September 2017, Civil Rights Defenders, an international nongovernmental organization (NGO), documented an increased amount of freedom of assembly violations in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The most serious breach was the violent dispersal of a demonstration in Kruscica, where locals were protesting the building of a river dam.
Freedom of Media
Journalists continue to work in an environment where threats and intimidation are common. The national journalists’ association BH Novinari registered, in the first nine months of 2017, 45 cases involving an assault on media freedom and expression, including nine physical attacks, seven death threats and six other threats, and two cases of defamation. The state response remains inadequate.
Police investigations into attacks take too long and only rarely lead to criminal proceedings. Although the total number of cases of assaults declined, the number of physical attacks and death threats rose slightly compared to 2016.
The difficult climate for journalists was also underlined in an August 2017 report by the Institution of Human Rights Ombudsman of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which recommended stronger criminal sanctions and training for police, prosecutors, and judges to tackle attacks on journalists.
Key International Actors
In its annual Human Rights Report published in March, the US Department of State highlighted the issue of child marriage in certain Romani communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, affecting girls between the ages of 12 and 14, and the lack of government programs to tackle these issues. It noted that violence against women remains widespread and police response is inadequate. The report identified conditions in the country’s prisons as harsh and sometimes life-threatening.
In July, the European Union (EU) delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina expressed concerns over threats against journalists in Banja Luka and Sarajevo, and called for full investigations in such cases.
In its concluding observations adopted in May, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities expressed concerns over the lack of a human rights-based concept of disability in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s entities and cantons. The committee expressed concern at the lack of efforts to bring existing legislation in line with the Disability Rights Convention, and the exclusion of persons with disabilities from public life, especially women with disabilities.
In its concluding observations in April, the Human Rights Committee renewed its concern over the slow pace of accountability for war crimes in domestic courts, noting the failure to meet the goals in the National War Crimes Strategy to conclude most complex cases by the end of 2015.
In a November report, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižniek expressed dismay that generations of children have been educated in segregated schools with little or no interaction with children from other ethnic groups. He also expressed concern over the low number of domestically prosecuted war-related crimes of sexual violence, and called on authorities to step up efforts in prosecuting war crimes.