Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions

Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of two entities within the state, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska. The country has a population of approximately four million; the population of the Federation is predominantly Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) and Bosnian Croat, while Republika Srpska has a Bosnian Serb majority. The Dayton Accords provide for a High Representative with the authority to impose legislation and remove officials. The tripartite presidency consists of Bosnian Croat Zeljko Komsic, Bosnian Serb Nebojsa Radmanovic, and Bosniak Haris Silajdzic. The government's human rights record remains poor; although there have been improvements in some areas, serious problems remain. In 2008 there were reports of continued deaths from landmines, police abuses, poor and overcrowded prison conditions, continued harassment and intimidation of journalists and civil society activists, discrimination and violence against women and ethnic and religious minorities, discrimination against persons with disabilities and sexual minorities, obstruction of refugee return, and trafficking in persons.

Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives

The U.S. Government's highest priority is to facilitate the country's full integration into the Euro-Atlantic community to ensure that its future will be stable, democratic, and prosperous. Nearly 14 years after the Dayton Accords ended the 1992-1995 war, the country remains deeply divided along ethnic lines. These divisions undermine the country's ability to perform basic governance. To address these issues, the United States prioritized the promoting of reform within the defense, law enforcement, judicial and constitutional sectors. The United States also targeted key non-governmental institutions such as a free, vibrant, and independent press, and a thriving civil society as critical to maximizing the country's democratic gains.

The United States' priorities stemming from the country's 1992-1995 civil war include fostering truth and reconciliation, prosecuting war criminals, and identifying the remains of those missing in the war--both as a humanitarian gesture and to facilitate war crimes prosecutions and documentation. The United States also seeks to improve government accountability at all levels. The U.S. human rights and democracy strategy aims to strengthen law enforcement, judicial, and political institutions to protect vulnerable populations, including ethnic minorities and victims of trafficking in persons, from discrimination and violence while also ensuring transparency in the judicial process and combating corruption.

Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

A U.S.-funded justice sector development program improves the efficiency, transparency, and fairness of the justice system by strengthening the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council, and by building the Ministry of Justice's ability to manage strategic planning and policy making, budgeting, donor coordination, and European integration. The successful "model court" project has helped 33 courts reduce case backlogs and improve efficiency and responsiveness to the public. The United States also works with parliament to strengthen political processes and decision-making on key issues. One U.S.-supported governance accountability project bolsters local governments' ability to respond efficiently to the needs of its citizens while also streamlining processes that might otherwise be prone to corruption or discrimination against ethnic minorities. Press freedom in the country is deteriorating drastically, with the level of threats against journalists doubling in the past year. The polarized political situation influences directly the media, dividing further the media and the public, and often compromising media professionalism. With many members of the local media influenced by sources of political and economic power, the United States directs available funding to support alternative media sources that promote multi-ethnic programming. The U.S. government also supports associations that promote professional standards and press freedom. The United States continues a civic advocacy partnership program with NGOs to strengthen their advocacy, coalition building, and watch-dog capabilities, and to address citizen needs through education, advocacy, and provision of services.

The United States funds local NGO projects to increase civic participation in decision-making processes through various public advocacy campaigns. These campaigns focus on issues such as transparency in government, political and economic empowerment of women in society, constitutional reforms, corruption, abuse of human rights (including violence against women, children, and minorities), reconciliation and tolerance, sustainable return of refugees and displaced persons, development of diversity, and tolerance in the media. The United States supports a wide range of public diplomacy programs, university linkages, media training, educational and cultural exchanges, and International Visitor Leadership Programs designed to expose Bosnians to U.S. institutions and values and strengthen confidence in state-level institutions. U.S. civic education programs reach students from kindergarten through secondary school, teacher training programs, and madrassas (Muslim secondary schools) throughout the country.

The United States uses diplomatic engagement with interlocutors from the Office of the High Representative (OHR), the foreign diplomatic corps, international organizations, local NGOs, and government agencies in coordinated efforts to implement decisions made by the Peace Implementation Council as well as to monitor and, when necessary, to counter actions that limit democratic freedoms and human rights. To counter nationalism and promote the truth and reconciliation necessary for a sustainable and sovereign future, the United States supports efforts to overcome the legacy of war. Public diplomacy programs solidify public support for necessary government reforms while also promoting civic education, participation, and advocacy. The United States has contributed financial, technical, and political support to develop the country's capacity to investigate and try war crimes cases, as well as cases involving official corruption, tax evasion, and money laundering. This is mainly achieved through secondment of U.S.-funded prosecutors and judges to the Office of the State Prosecutor and the State Court. The United States supports intensive training programs for police, prosecutors, and judges to increase investigative and other skills, and police-prosecutor cooperation. The U.S. Government advocated police reforms that enabled the country to meet EU conditions for the signing of a Stabilization and Association Agreement in June 2008.

The United States remains committed to supporting post-conflict efforts to confront nationalism, promote reconciliation, and restore a culture of tolerance. Through U.S. funding, the International Commission on Missing Persons continues to collect blood samples to help identify persons reported missing during the 1992-1995 conflict. More than 16,000 persons have been identified with the aid of the United States, including 3,876 from the Srebrenica genocide. The funding has also trained staff of the Missing Persons Institute, supported victims' associations, and provided forensic evidence for war crimes proceedings. U.S.-funded initiatives also promote respect for the rights of marginalized groups, including women, children, persons with disabilities, and minority groups. The United States continues to facilitate the return of refugees and persons displaced by the 1992-1995 conflict, the majority of whom are ethnic minorities. The United States supports an advocacy program to develop the public media capacities of 15 Roma Associations, including the establishment of a Roma Information Center and publication of a Roma Magazine, in an effort to break down stereotypes and combat discrimination against the Roma. U.S. assistance also supports antitrafficking efforts, which includes providing the national-level antitrafficking strike force with technical advice and training. In 2008 the United States funded a major country-wide trafficking education effort, the SUSTAIN program.