Democracy and rights
The war of the 1990s still casts its shadow
over Bosnia-Herzegovina. The contradictions between the
three dominant ethnic groups remain and society is
characterized by political deadlock, corruption and
heavy bureaucracy. The work of putting war criminals to
justice is slow.
Elections are held regularly, there is political
diversity and the opposition can act freely. However,
the split between ethnic divides contributes to the
pressure on voters, as well as certain restrictions on
assembly and organizational law. Irregularities and
sometimes violence are reported mainly in connection
with local elections. The institutions are weak and the
relationship between state power and the two regions,
the entities, is sometimes unclear. In many cases, laws,
statutes and jurisdictions overlap.
Offers a comprehensive list of airports in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including international airports with city located, size and abbreviation, as well as the biggest airlines.
The Council of Europe warned in 2019 Bosnia's
leadership of ominous signals that the country could not
live up to its commitments in terms of "democracy, the
rule of law and human rights" (see Calendar). Bosnia was
expelled from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council
of Europe as it failed to appoint a delegation to the
Assembly. Similarly, Bosnia had just failed to appoint a
liaison to European police cooperation Europol.
In rankings of political and civil rights, Bosnia and
Herzegovina gets the worst ranking of all Balkan
countries. The Economist Intelligence Unit classifies
Bosnia as a "hybrid regime", the third of four
categories where the fourth is "authoritarian regimes"
(which certainly applies to some other Balkan countries
as well). In Transparency International's ranking of 180
countries based on corruption levels, Bosnia ranks
101st. It is similar to other countries in the region
such as Serbia, Kosovo, Northern Macedonia and Albania
(for the full list see here).
One problem with the political system, which is a
result of the war, is that in practice it gives the
various peoples veto rights (see Political system). To a
large extent, this has hit politics - and thus also
democratization, development work and economic progress.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2009 that
minority groups are being discriminated against by the
Constitution, since they are excluded from political
office. The case involved two people, a Jew and a Roma.
Politicians have discussed a constitutional change since
then, with no results. In 2014, the Court again declared
that the Constitution had to be changed, in a new case
that applied to a person who just wanted to be
identified as a Bosnian citizen, without any particular
ethnicity. Bosnia's Constitutional Court has also
concluded that the Constitution discriminates against
religious and ethnic minorities.
The situation is not facilitated by strong separatist
forces in one of the country's two entities, the
Republika Srpska, questioning the legitimacy of Bosnia
and Herzegovina as a nation.
Freedom of expression and media
Freedom of the press and freedom of expression
prevail according to the constitution, and no formal
censorship exists. Media legislation in Bosnia is
described as one of the most liberal in the world, but
deficiencies in the judiciary do not always have the
legal impact. Journalists are often exposed to threats
and political pressures, as well as physical attacks.
The media landscape, like society in general, is
polarized and fragmented. Most media companies have
owners with ties to any political grouping or group of
people and are at least indirectly controlled in their
In Reporters Without Borders index of freedom of the
press in 180 countries, Bosnia ranks 58th (for the full
list see here). It is a step better than the neighboring
country and EU member Croatia, and significantly better
than the other former Yugoslav republics with the
exception of Slovenia (which is closer to Western Europe
in terms of democracy and rights). Nevertheless, RUG
describes how the political climate with verbal attacks
and fierce nationalist rhetoric contributes to a hostile
environment for the media.
In Republika Srpska, a law was passed in 2015 that
extended the definition of "public place" to the
Internet. Many saw this as a clear threat to journalism
and the use of social media in general.
Before and during the war, the media played a major
role in spreading propaganda that undermined ethnic
contradictions and contributed to the outbreak of war.
Even today, nuanced news reporting contributes to
curbing mistrust among the country's people groups, even
in media that call themselves independent. This is very
much the case in public service.
There is also an overstating of media which causes
many to have financial difficulties, which makes them
more susceptible to economic and political pressures.
Journalism is characterized by low wages and high
Judicial system and legal security
The justice system is characterized by bureaucracy,
lack of resources and political pressure. Trials often
extend over time for years, and cases appear to be
balled between the various bodies. Many cases are closed
due to procedural errors, such as the disappearance of
evidence. The ruling in the national constitutional
court does not always have an impact on the entities.
The death penalty was abolished completely in 2001.
Police and prison staff are accused of harsh
treatment of arrested and imprisoned persons. The
conditions in the prisons are in many cases bad and the
overcrowding is great.
The legal aftermath of war crimes committed during
the Civil War (see also Modern History) was initially
handled only by the United Nations Criminal Tribunal for
the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), established in The Hague
in 1993. Most of its objectives concerned the war in
Bosnia, and by the 161 people charged were the majority
of ethnic Serbs. Among the most sought after were the
Bosnian Serbs' highest political and military leaders,
Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić. They were left on the
loose for a long time but were eventually arrested in
Serbia, 2008 and 2011 respectively, and brought to the
Hague Tribunal where they were charged with, among other
things, genocide. Karadžić was first sentenced to 40
years in prison but appealed and got the sentence
sharpened to life in March 2019 (see Calendar). Mladić
was sentenced to life imprisonment in November 2017 (see
Already in 2005, a special war crimes chamber in the
nationwide Bosnian court began its work, to relieve the
Hague Tribunal whose mandate expired in December 2017.
The chamber, which was also supposed to be able to
prosecute a larger group of suspects, has until 2019
prosecuted just over 800 people, of which approximately
half convicted of crime. The work is slow considering
that, still, a quarter of a century after the war, there
are estimated to be around 5,000 suspected war criminals
who have never been tried.