Religious minorities said government authorities selectively enforced their rights and often failed to provide government services and protections to them.
Religious officials of minority populations throughout the country said local authorities discriminated against them regarding the use of religious property, permits for new religious properties, and police protection, and investigation of harassment and vandalism. In some cases, local governments condemned acts of discrimination against minority religious populations. In March the local Trebinje mayor made a public appearance with the local Orthodox priest to criticize an incident in which perpetrators sprayed graffiti on an Islamic Community administration building in the city. Other local governments, however, continued to allow societal intolerance and the threat of violence to restrict religious minorities’ ability to worship in certain areas. After an attack on a mosque in Prijedor in September, local law enforcement apprehended the perpetrator, but charged him for damage of property rather than instigation of religious hatred.
The lines dividing politics, ethnic identity, and religion were often blurred. Political parties dominated by a single ethnic group continued to identify closely with the religion associated with that ethnic group. Because religion and ethnicity were often closely linked, it was difficult to categorize many incidents as being solely based on religious identity.
The commission implementing the concordat with the Holy See met four times during the year to discuss the adoption of laws on religious holidays and restitution of nationalized properties. According to commission members, the parliament failed to act on any of its recommendations. For example, in November the parliament rejected a proposal by the commission to grant religious holidays for all religious communities.
The authorities made few arrests following attacks on religious sites, and there were no convictions for such offenses. Of 28 incidents occurring during the year, police identified suspected perpetrators in only three cases. Local police sometimes alleged juveniles, intoxicated individuals, or mentally unstable persons were responsible for the attacks.
In January three Catholic cemeteries were vandalized in Hrvatske Poljane and Breza, resulting in the destruction or damage of 45 tombstones. In February unknown perpetrators desecrated and stole a medieval tombstone from an Orthodox cemetery in Dubnica village. The same month, vandals damaged the entrance door, broke several windows, and scattered several artifacts of the Atik Mosque in Bijeljina. In May unknown perpetrators defaced a construction site of a synagogue in Mostar with graffiti containing derogatory remarks against the Jewish Community. In all of these cases, law enforcement failed to identify or detain suspected perpetrators.
A number of well-publicized cases involving the illegal construction of religious buildings or monuments on private or government-owned land remained unresolved. In these cases, observers and analysts said the purpose behind the construction was to send a political message to members of minority religious communities about the dominance of the majority religious group in that area.
RS authorities and the SOC continued to reject proposals to relocate a church illegally constructed in the village of Konjevic Polje on the private property of a Bosniak, who returned home as a wartime refugee in 2000 to find a small church built in her front yard. There were no Orthodox believers living in the neighborhood and the building remained empty throughout the year.
The return of former religious properties continued at the discretion of municipal officials, who usually gave preferential treatment to the area’s majority religion. The four traditional religious communities’ extensive claims for restitution remained largely unaddressed in the absence of national legislation governing restitution of property nationalized by the communist government of the former Yugoslavia after World War II.
During the year, the economics faculty of the University of Sarajevo reneged on a 2013 agreement gradually to return its building, from which it has operated since the communist era, to the SOC, the former legal owners of the property. The agreement entailed returning one room to the SOC for the establishment of an “Institute for Inter-Religious Dialogue” as an initial step towards returning the building entirely. Officials from the economics faculty said they did not honor the agreement because the school suffered from a lack of space.
Authorities in Travnik continued to avoid compliance with a 2003 decision by the Human Rights Chamber (now the Human Rights Commission of the Constitutional Court) ordering the municipal government to relocate a public school housed since the communist era in a building owned by the Roman Catholic archdiocese. The municipality returned part of the building in 1999 to the archdiocese for use as part of a Catholic school center. The remainder of the building, however, remained in use as a public school. The court had ordered the public school to move out of the building by July 2006.
Officials did not always implement provisions in the law regarding religious education, particularly in segregated school systems or where there was resistance from party officials at the municipal level. For example, at a primary school in Konjevic Polje, local officials denied Bosniak returnee students an ethnic-based group of subjects, including religious education. Students from both majority and minority religious communities sometimes faced pressure from teachers and peers to attend instruction in their religion where it was noncompulsory, and most did so.
Non-traditional religious groups said local authorities discriminated against them in the provision of municipal services. Compared to the four traditional religious groups, non-traditional religious communities said they received unequal government assistance and benefits at the state, entity, and local levels.
Government authorities continued to fail to implement a 2009 decision by the European Court of Human Rights calling for an amendment to the constitution to allow minorities, including Jews, to run for president and the parliament’s upper house.