August 2023 | Attacker livestreams murder of ex-partner, sparking protests against femicides
The European Court of Human Rights found that territorial and ethnic rules applicable in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH)’s state-level elections are discriminatory, violating the general prohibition of discrimination in the European Convention of Human Rights. BiH’s Constitution defines a power-sharing arrangement whereby the three “constituent peoples” (the Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs) are equally represented in the House of Peoples (a parliamentary chamber) and the tripartite presidency. People outside the three dominant ethnic groups are not included in these arrangements and cannot be elected to these institutions. The ruling held that elections are “undemocratic” because they entrench advantages of the main ethnic groups over others. The case was brought by Slaven Kovačević, an adviser to a member of BiH's Presidency who is not affiliated with any ethnic group, who argued he was not genuinely represented in the 2022 elections.
July 2023 | OHR annuls Republika Srpska laws that threaten Dayton Agreement institutions
On 1 July, the Office of the High Representative (OHR) moved to annul two laws passed in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH)’s Republika Srpska (RS) entity. The laws, adopted by the RS Parliament in June, refuse to recognise decisions taken by two key institutions established by the Dayton Agreement which ended the Bosnian war in 1995, namely BiH’s Constitutional Court and the OHR itself. In its decision, the OHR stated that the laws undermine the Dayton Agreement, as well as BiH’s stability and unity. The OHR also amended BiH’s criminal code to facilitate the prosecution of any illegal action in contravention of the country’s constitutional order, and the Prosecutor’s office has since ordered the questioning of Milorad Dodik, President of RS, over his refusal to execute decisions of the High Representative. Dodik remained undeterred and, in July, threatened on social media to hold a referendum on the status of RS within BiH.
June 2023 | Republika Srpska passes law preventing recognition of Constitutional Court rulings
Republika Srpska (RS), one of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH)’s two entities, passed a new law rendering state-level Constitutional Court decisions invalid within RS and rejecting their authority. Authorities claim that the court operates under foreign influence and supports a power imbalance against RS. The law was supported by 56 out of 65 MPs. Three of the court’s nine judges are appointed by the European Court of Human Rights in consultation with BiH’s Presidency, two by RS National Assembly, with the remainder appointed by the Federation entity. Earlier in June, Judge Knežević, the final serving member appointed by RS, decided to retire following pressure from the RS National Assembly, which aimed to freeze the court. In response, the Constitutional Court revised its quorum regulations so that it could continue to operate. The law was condemned by observers as undermining BiH’s constitutional order and the Dayton Agreement, and experts have linked the move to RS President Milorad Dodik’s secessionist plans.
April 2023 | OHR moves to unblock government formation in the Federation
Government formation in the Federation has now been finalised, seven months after the elections in October 2022. Refik Lendo, Bosniak Vice President and member of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) had been blocking the appointment of the new government (which does not have any SDA ministers). The Office of the High Representative (OHR) used its “Bonn powers”, granted to the OHR by the Dayton Accords, to forward the proposed ministerial appointments to the Parliament without first obtaining Lendo’s signature. The House of Representatives subsequently confirmed the government composition, with 51 votes in favour, and one abstention. The OHR also accorded the Parliament a period of 12 months to agree to constitutional amendments that would prevent future blockages in government formation. The previous ministers in the Federation government had been serving in a technical mandate since 2018 in view of the protracted political stalemate.