On December 22, 2009, the European Court of Human Rights issued its ruling in Sejdic and Finki v. Bosnia and Herzegovina. In its opinion, the court held that the Bosnian Constitution, which requires that the House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly and the Presidency be solely composed of persons belonging to the three constituent peoples (Bosniacs, Croats, and Serbs), discriminates against ethnic minorities and infringes electoral rights in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. In order to prevent the government from adopting legislation contrary to the wills of any of the constituent peoples, the drafters of the Bosnian Constitution created a second legislative chamber (the House of the Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly) composed of five members of each of the constituent peoples, and a collective Presidency composed of one member of each of the constituent peoples. In this case, a Jew and a Rom complained that the Bosnian Constitution and the Election Act of 2001 barred them from being candidates for office in the Presidency and the House of the Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly, even though they possess experience comparable to the highest elected officials, because they refuse to declare affiliation with any of the constituent peoples.
The European Court of Human Rights acknowledged that the power-sharing mechanisms of the Bosnian Constitution were justifiably designed to achieve the aim of restoring peace to a war-torn country rife with ethnic conflict; however, it also noted that the country has made considerable progress in the fourteen years since the Dayton Peace Agreements. The court further noted the existence of other power-sharing mechanisms that do not require the exclusion of ethnic minorities not belonging to the three constituent peoples from high public office. As a result, the court found that the rule prohibiting non-constituent peoples from holding office in the House of the Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly violated Article 14 of the European Convention on human rights (prohibiting discrimination in the enjoyment of rights guaranteed by the Convention) read in conjunction with Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 (guaranteeing the right of free elections). The court also found that the constitutional rule prohibiting the applicants from running for President violated Article 1 of Protocol No. 12 (prohibiting discrimination in the enjoyment of any right set forth by law). In terms of remedy, the court held that the finding of a violation provided just satisfaction with regards to the plaintiffs’ non-pecuniary injuries, and ordered the State to pay 1,000 Euros to the first applicant and 20,000 Euros to the second to cover their costs and expenses.
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