Ombudsman representatives from the Western Balkans exchanged views and experiences on the role of institutions for the protection of human rights in judicial and administrative proceedings and discussed cooperation in addressing human rights violations and combating discrimination at a regional conference held in Sarajevo.
A two day regional conference “Exchange of best practices of addressing human rights violations with a special focus on combating discrimination” was organized on 15 – 16 February under the joint European Union and Council of Europe project “Strengthening the Human Rights Ombudsman to Fight Discrimination”.
The Conference was attended by representatives of national human rights institutions from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. They were joined by representatives of the judiciary, legal scholars and civil society organisations of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Special guests of the conference were representatives of Armenia and Turkey.
Head of Political and Economic Section of the EU Delegation to BiH Jan Snaidaufreferred to the EU Western Balkans Strategy and importance of rule of law in the coming years. He emphasised human rights and all related fields as areas that the EU considers essentially important and that national human rights institutions and ombudsmen are crucial institutions to oversee these areas.
”It is necessary for the country’s Ombudsperson to be financially, procedurally and politically independent. This can be a challenge to budget resources, but it is important to overcome these challenges, so that we can overcome problems in this country and other countries in the region, and to advance on the path of the rule of law within European integration“, said Snaidauf.
Head of Council of Europe Office in BiH Drahoslav Štefanek underlined the importance of this conference for the whole region.
“The conference is designed to exchange best practices across the region between national human rights institutions. I am glad that all relevant stakeholders from the society will participate in this conference“, said Štefanek.
Speaking about the procedures Nives Jukić, BiH Ombudsperson, stated that this institution covers all areas of human rights.
“We cannot influence the Decision on the Merits, and my opinion is it should stay so, because this is an institution that works only with the power of arguments and with its own authority. Let this conference help our citizens to keep human rights alive, because they are a part of us and they belong to all of us”, said Jukić.
The conference is a part of the EUR 25 million-worth joint EU and the Council of Europe Programme “Horizontal Facility for Western Balkans and Turkey”. The Horizontal Facility is a three-year programme, being implemented as of May 2016, with the aim to assist authorities in South-East Europe to achieve greater compliance with European standards in three key areas: ensuring justice, fighting economic crime as well as combating discrimination and protecting the rights of vulnerable groups.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina EUR 1.82 million have been allocated for three projects: Enhancing human rights protection for detained and sentenced persons; Strengthening the Human Rights Ombudsman to fight discrimination; and Support to the International Monitoring Operation (IMO) in the final assessment of the census process in BiH.