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Bosnia and Herzegovina

Executive Summary

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a democratic republic with a bicameral parliament. Many governmental functions are the responsibility of two entities within the state, the Bosniak-Croat Federation (Federation) and the Republika Srpska, as well as the Brcko District, an autonomous administrative unit under Bosnia and Herzegovina sovereignty. The 1995 General Framework Agreement for Peace (the Dayton Accords), which ended the 1992-1995 conflict, provides the constitutional framework for governmental structures. The country held general elections in 2018 and local elections in 2020. As of November the results of the 2018 general elections were not fully implemented, because the Federation entity-level government and Herzegovina Neretva cantonal government were not yet formed.

State-level police agencies report to the Council of Ministers and include the State Investigation and Protection Agency, the Border Police, the Foreigners Affairs Service (partial police competencies), and the Directorate for Police Bodies Coordination. Police agencies in the two entities (the Republika Srpska Ministry of Interior and the Federation Police Directorate), the Brcko District, and 10 cantonal interior ministries also exercise police powers. The armed forces are under the oversight of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency and provide assistance to civilian bodies in case of natural or other disasters. The intelligence service has responsibility for internal and external security and is under the authority of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Council of Ministers. A European Union peacekeeping force continues to support the country’s government in maintaining security. While civilian authorities maintained effective control of law enforcement agencies and security forces, a lack of clear division of jurisdiction and responsibilities between the country’s 17 law enforcement agencies resulted in occasional confusion and overlapping responsibilities. Members of the security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of detainees by the police; harsh prison conditions; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence and threats of violence against journalists; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on peaceful assembly; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation where minority candidates are unable to run for the country’s highest elected offices, including the Presidency or the House of Peoples; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence including domestic and sexual violence and violence against children and early and forced marriage among the Roma population; crimes motivated by anti-Semitism; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting members of ethnic minority groups; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons; and the existence of the worst forms of child labor.

Units in both entities and the Brcko District investigated allegations of police abuse, meted out administrative penalties, and referred cases of criminal misconduct to prosecutors. Given the lack of follow-through on allegations against police abuses, observers considered police impunity widespread, and there were continued reports of corruption within the state and entity security services. Ineffective prosecution of war crimes committed during the 1992-1995 conflict continued to be a problem.

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U.S. Department of State

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