Strategy for Operation of the
The Dayton Peace Agreement introduced the modern concept of human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995. By this Agreement, BiH actually started a process of dual transition: from war to peace and from one-party system to democratic, multi-party system and market economy.
In Dayton, Bosnia and Herzegovina got the Constitution that guarantees the respect for the highest standards in the field of human rights and freedoms. Within the Framework Peace Agreement, the Annex dedicated to human rights was adopted, which established special mechanisms for protection of human rights – the Human Rights Chamber and Ombudsmen for BiH – and sixteen international agreements in the field of human rights were the constituent part of this Annex the application of which was obliging for BiH. Thereby, the BiH authorities are obligated to harmonize domestic legislation with the above-mentioned international standards, and the Constitution provides that the rights and freedoms under the European Convention on Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, with its Protocols will be directly applied in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that they will have priority over other laws.
The application of the high standards in the field of human rights started following the massive and gross violations of all fundamental human rights committed during the war. Besides, BiH was a state with no historical experience in democracy, and consequently, the provisions of the Dayton Peace Agreement rested upon the period of negation of the individual rights in favor of collective ones.
In addition to the negative historical heritage, BiH entered the peace time with ruling political bodies which by their nature and orientation were not willing to give up favoring collective national rights instead of individual rights, which additionally aggravated the application of the provisions on human rights.
In the past ten years, a consistent struggle for respect of human rights, and concrete protection to individuals whose rights were being violated was provided by the Ombudsmen of the Federation of BiH, the Human Rights Chamber, until the moment of cessation of its operation at the end of 2003, and non-governmental organisations for protection of human rights. The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in BiH, as the oldest non-governmental organisation in this field, founded on 11 February 1995, played an important role in protection, promotion and improvement of the state of human rights.
On the basis of the ten-year experience, and the need to strengthen its work and to improve the efficiency in protecting the rights of each individual residing in BiH, the Helsinki Committee decided to pass the strategy for activities for the period from 2005 to 2010.
Aims and objectives:
Methods of operation:
1. Strengthening the rule of law
In the past ten-year period, rendering free legal aid has proven to be extremely useful in efforts to protect human rights. The lawyers of the Helsinki Committee dealt with about 33,000 cases by giving pieces of advice, by intervening with the governmental authorities and institutions of international community, by giving recommendations, all with the aim to assist every citizen who addressed the Helsinki Committee asking for assistance.
In the upcoming period, it is necessary to establish the office in the Republika Srpska, staffed with a lawyer to render free legal aid. Moreover, it is necessary to strengthen the office in Mostar in terms of rendering free legal aid.
As for the method of work, the orientation is to have the lawyers of the Helsinki Committee more often working in the field, where the violations of human rights are taking place.
Since the violations of human rights are being expressed in new forms and contents, it is necessary to provide a continuous education to the lawyers in order for them to be able to address the cases of violation of human rights in a professional and competent manner, in particular in the field of discrimination of and provision of aid to vulnerable population.
Within its orientation to contribute to strengthening the rule of law, the Helsinki Committee will systematically conduct monitoring of the work of courts at all levels. The monitoring will be focused on the application of the European Convention on Human Rights and Freedoms and its provisions relating to the right to fair and just trial.
The monitoring of the work of the courts should, among else, support the efforts aimed at having truly independent judiciary whose work will be harmonized with the European Convention, and assist in making assessment of whether the judicial reform was successful.
2. Respect for international standards
The basic mission of the Helsinki Committee is to monitor the extent to which the authorities respect and implement international standards in the field of human rights. Bosnia and Herzegovina undertook the obligation to apply certain number of international conventions, thus therefore, the monitoring of the application of these conventions, both in the field of legislation and in every-day life, is a mission of the non-governmental organisations, including the Helsinki Committee.
In our future work, it is necessary to build a method on the basis of which all the drafts laws and proposals of the laws dealing with the human rights will be submitted to the Committee to provide expertise, and to give opinion on each proposal, to be submitted to the competent parliamentary bodies afterwards.
The Committee will, in future, initiate passage of some laws that are lacking and will insist on public debates to be held on each legal text of higher importance.
The activities of the Helsinki Committee will be also directed towards organizing meetings with the working bodies of the Parliament dealing with the legislation, as well as with some thematic fields related to the human rights.
The Helsinki Committee shall invest efforts to continuously engage the monitors who will regularly report on the state of human rights in certain regions of BiH, such as: Bihać, Banja Luka, Bijeljina, Brčko, Tuzla, Zenica, Sarajevo, Mostar and Trebinje.
The task of the monitors will be, apart from the reporting on the state of human rights in certain regions, also to report on the particular fields of human rights relating to the elections, national minorities, women's rights, children's rights, the rights of persons with special needs, and similar. To that aim, the trainings will be organized for monitors.
We will invest our efforts to include as many young people, high school students and university students, as possible in the education on human rights through the schools on human rights for the youth at the level of Bosnia and Herzegovina and at the level of the region of South-Eastern Europe. After having finished the school, the participants will be included in the human rights projects, and the emphasis will be given to the need of having them actively engaged in this field.
The participants of the Human Rights School will be temporarily invited to attend additional training courses and other forms of education, and the Helsinki Committee will have a regular communication with them.
The Helsinki Committee will organize shorter trainings in the primary and secondary schools throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Special trainings will be organized for attorneys, journalists, and when necessary, for prison staff, doctors and judges.
Already established regular cooperation with the number of media will be improved in order to inform the public about the meaning of the notion of human rights and on the manners how they can be defended. The Helsinki Committee will support all the media projects of the investigative character in the field of human rights, and will be ready to take active part in their realization.
In a cooperation with film festivals which thematically cover the filed of human rights, as well as with the authors, we will try to bring closer the film creations dealing with human rights to the Bosnian-and-Herzegovinian TV and film public.
4. Rendering protection to vulnerable categories of population
The Helsinki Committee will pay particular attention to the vulnerable groups of population whose rights are being frequently and grossly violated. We particularly here have in mind women, children, victims of trafficking in human beings and domestic violence, persons with disabilities, war and civilian victims, pensioners, sex and gender minorities, members of national and religious minorities, families of the missing persons.
In a co-operation with the related non-governmental organisations, lawyers will be trained for rendering legal aid to the members of these categories of citizens.
Researches will be conducted regularly and reports will be published with recommendations relating to the state of human rights of each of the above-mentioned category of particularly vulnerable groups of people. We will also initiate the activities aimed at passing the law in order to improve legal regulations and to enable the creation of assumptions for improvement of the state of human rights of these vulnerable groups of people.
of Srđan Dizdarević, President of the
Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina at the
Solemn Observance of the Tenth Anniversary of the Helsinki