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Thursday, April 05, 2012

HRW report on discrimination against Roma, Jews in Bosnia

From Human Rights Watch:
Roma, Jews, and other national minorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina remain excluded from participation in national politics 20 years after war began, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Bosnia needs to remove ethnic discrimination against national minorities from its constitution, laws, and public institutions, Human Rights Watch said.

The 62-page report, “Second Class Citizens: Discrimination Against Roma, Jews, and Other National Minorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” highlights discrimination against Roma, Jews, and other national minorities in politics and government. Much of this discrimination stems from Bosnia’s 1995 Constitution, which mandates a system of government based on ethnicity and excludes these groups from high political office. The report also shows the wider impact of discrimination on the daily lives of Roma in accessing housing, education, healthcare, and employment.
HRW definitely uncovers and highlights official discrimination against Bosnia-Herzegovina's minorities.

Their emphasis on Jews in the report is interesting.

There are only 500 Jews in Bosnia now, as opposed to (probably) tens of thousands of Roma and hundreds of thousands of members of other ethnic groups who suffer discrimination. The report even mentions that Jews manage to obtain high-level civil service jobs, although they are hampered from running for political office. So why is HRW emphasizing the comparatively few Jews?

There are two possible explanations.

One is that the Jewish community, although tiny, is well organized so it is easier to get perspective on minority rights by speaking to them. In fact, Jewish community leader Jakob Finci brought a lawsuit complaining about the inability of minorities to run for president. The Jews' cohesion gives them greater visibility.

But I can't help but think that the major reason that Jews are in the title of the report as well as disproportionately featured within was that HRW wanted to get more publicity, and Jews are news. The report barely mentions Albanians and Macedonians, who outnumber Jews by a factor of forty in the country.

This is not to say that the report is not a good exposé on the very real state-mandated discrimination in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Its just that in this case their highlighting of Jews as victims seems a little misplaced, and possibly political.