23 March 2007
Legal Dynamite: A Bosnian court ruling threatens the protectorate

On 27 February, the Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council – the 55 governments and agencies running the international mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina - decided to extend this mission until June 2008, including the powers of the High Representative to dismiss public officials and impose legislation. Only ten days earlier, the Constitutional Court of Bosnia had published its ruling declaring the absence of any right of appeal for individuals sacked by the High Representative a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. Under the Bosnian Constitution, the Convention is the highest law of the land.

Instead of using the opportunity to soften, or at least bring in accordance with human rights standards, the international protectorate in Bosnia, the Steering Board "noted with concern that domestic actors in Bosnia and Herzegovina have challenged actions undertaken on the basis of Dayton and UN Security Council Resolutions." It called upon the High Representative to take appropriate action, which he did on 23 March, issuing an "Order" how the ruling is to be implemented: through him and nobody else. On the same day, he annulled the formation of the Federation Government following last year's election because the OHR had not had the time to complete the vetting of ministers.

The purpose of these heavy-handed actions is to safeguard the OHR's dwindling authority: there has been no threat to the peace process. Whatever moral credibility the Office still had has now been squandered in a show of force that highlights declining European 'soft power' in the Balkans.

This raises fundamental questions for future EU missions, such as in Kosovo where the EU Special Representative is to be entrusted with similar powers to those exercised by the High Representative. The existence of unaccountable international authority undermines the very standards the mission is supposed to promote.

Read an article that ESI Director Gerald Knaus and ESI Senior Editor Marcus Cox wrote for the workshop "Whither Bosnia? – A Balkan Conundrum" organised by the Polish Institute of International Affairs in Warsaw on 5 March.

Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Orthodox and Catholic Cathedrals in Sarajevo - Copyright   by Alan Grant
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Alan Grant is an Irish photographer who travelled extensively in the Balkans and other countries and regions of the world. Thanks to him, ESI is able to show fascinating pictures of the Balkans: the facades of Tirana, the painted mosques of Travnik, the fabulous old houses of Plovdiv and the spectacular blue of water - dark in the Bay of Kotor, emerald in the river valleys of Bosnia, deep blue in Ohrid, twinkling in the Aegean Sea and on the Bosporus.

You can find out more about Alan Grant on his websites:
Jonathan Lewis lives between London and Istanbul. He moved to London and spent many years studying photography and now specialises in photojournalism, documentary photography and commercial work for a wide variety of private and commercial clients in the UK, Europe and Turkey. His work has appeared in a number of magazines and publications and is used on the ESI website as well.

You can find out more about Jonathan Lewis on his website www.jonathanlewisphoto.com