The time has come for BiH to ensure the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans persons are protected

On the occasion of the international day against homophobia and transphobia, the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina released a joint letter to the minister of human rights and refugees Mr. Damir Ljubic, addressing the remaining issues that lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans persons still face in BiH. Sweden, along with 25 other embassies and international institutions called for action in the joint letter saying that legislation and implementation need to be “adequate to combat discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity…”. The following is the joint letter by the international community in BiH, 17 May, 2013.

Dear Minister,

We are writing to you on the occasion of May 17th, the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO). As the Minister for Human Rights and Refugees, the protection of human rights for all citizens is at the core of your mandate.
Although homosexuality is not prohibited by law in Bosnia and Herzegovina, many gay, lesbian, transgender and intersex people, especially young people, suffer from the lack of adherence to and implementation of national and international human rights instruments prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Acts of violence, be they physical or verbal, are punishable by law in BiH, yet almost all of those acts go unpunished. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people are being confronted with exclusion and discrimination every day.

BiH is a signatory to many of the relevant international human rights instruments prohibiting all forms of discrimination, including the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR), the UN convention on Civil and Political Rights, and the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as well as the 2009 BiH Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination. BiH entered these obligations voluntarily and is therefore now obliged to ensure that all these rights are protected and available for all.

We call upon you to take action. Four very concrete courses of action are, we believe, incumbent upon your Ministry:
First, to ensure that BIH legislation and other measures are adequate to combat discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, including by properly defining these terms, and adopting and implementing a comprehensive strategy aimed at tackling discriminatory or biased attitudes and behaviour within the general public and developing long-term educational or awareness raising programmes to correct prejudices and stereotypes.
Second, in order to help monitor the proper implementation of these measures, a central database of discrimination cases needs to be established. This is, in fact, already an obligation arising from the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination.
Third, it is of the utmost importance that representatives of law enforcement institutions such as judges, prosecutors, police officers and other relevant stakeholders are educated about their roles and responsibilities in regard to acts of discrimination against LGBT-persons.
Fourth, in order to ensure the human rights of LGBT people are protected, the persons or groups for which it is intended, must be aware of it and informed about the means and mechanisms available to make the best use of it.  Therefore, as a first step, we urge you to launch an extensive awareness raising campaign to be implemented by BiH public authorities.

In 2010, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers issued a Recommendation to member states on measures for combating discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.  Several neighbouring States, including Montenegro, Serbia and Albania have taken part in a Council of Europe project designed to assist the authorities to ensure the implementation of this Recommendation for the benefit of their citizens.  It is highly unfortunate that the Minister of Human Rights and Refugees did not take advantage of this opportunity.  Nevertheless, we strongly recommend that you implement this Recommendation in its entirety and make use of the assistance and support that the Council of Europe remains ready to provide. We believe that in this way, the Ministry will demonstrate its willingness to proactively work to protect the human rights of LGBT persons.

We look forward to the day when all people in BiH, including members of the LGBT community, can fully exercise their human rights and live in safety and security, free from fear of physical, emotional or verbal harassment and abuse based on their sexual orientation or gender. Therefore, we urge BiH public authorities, specifically the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees, to take action now to protect your own citizens and end the violence and discrimination that LGBT persons continue to suffer in their everyday life in BiH.