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First mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina by the UN Independent Expert on minority issues

GENEVA (13 September 2012) – United Nations expert Rita Izsák will visit Bosnia and Herzegovina from 17 to 25 September 2012, to examine the human rights situation of different minorities, including the Roma and other recognized national minorities. This will be the first visit to the country by an Independent Expert mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to consider minority issues.

“I will consider the legislation, policies and practices Bosnia and Herzegovina has in place to protect minority rights and ensure equality and non-discrimination for its diverse national, ethnic, religious and linguistic groups,” Ms. Izsák said. “I will also seek information on the situation of those ‘constituent peoples’ - Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs - who are minorities in the areas in which they live.”

The 1995 Dayton Peace Accords established the new constitution for Bosnia and Herzegovina that administratively divides the country into two Entities, Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which enjoy a high degree of autonomy and competencies. The Independent Expert will consider issues including how to promote integration of different ethnic groups.

“As in every country, challenges exist in Bosnia and Herzegovina to ensuring minority rights and equality for all,” she noted. “In post conflict societies those challenges can be particularly complex and entrenched and it is essential to address them fully and openly and with the participation of all affected groups. Minority rights and dialogue between communities are essential and also vital components of conflict prevention and reconciliation.”

“This visit provides a unique opportunity to learn about the current situation from a variety of actors on the ground, including Government representatives and, importantly, members of different communities themselves,” the human rights expert said. “I want to hear about their issues and concerns in such areas as education and political and economic participation, and see what measures are in place to combat discrimination, and promote integration and equality in all of the country’s regions.”

Ms. Izsák, who visits Bosnia and Herzegovina at the invitation of the Government, will begin her mission in the national capital, Sarajevo, before travelling to different regions of the country with diverse minority populations, including the Banja Luka area, Brèko District and Mostar. She will meet with senior Government officials at state, entity and municipal level, representatives of non-governmental organizations, community members, academics, and others working in the field of minority issues, social inclusion and promotion of equality and non-discrimination.

Under her UN mandate, the Independent Expert is required to promote implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities* which marks its 20th anniversary in 2012 and to identify challenges as well as positive practices with regard to minority issues. Following her visit, Ms. Izsák will present a report containing her findings and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council.

The Independent Expert will issue a statement to the media and hold a press conference upon conclusion of her visit on Tuesday 25 September, 2012. Further details to follow.

Rita Izsák was appointed as Independent Expert on minority issues by the Human Rights Council in June 2011 and took up her functions on 01 August 2011. As Independent Expert, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Learn more:

(*) Check the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/minorities.htm

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Bosnia and Herzegovina: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/BAIndex.aspx

For further information and media requests, please contact Graham Fox, (+41 22 917 9640 / gfox@ohchr.org) or write to minorityissues@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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