Bosnia and Herzegovina

Ethnic differences remained a powerful destructive force in society, although mixed communities existed peacefully in some areas.

Harassment and discrimination against minorities, often related to property disputes, continued throughout the country. These problems most often included desecration of graves, graffiti, arson, vandalism of houses of worship and other religious sites, verbal harassment, dismissal from work, threats, and physical assaults.

By November the country's Inter-Religious Council documented 56 acts of vandalism against religious sites over the previous year, 30 in the RS, and 26 in the Federation. Most attacks occurred in places where the targeted community was in the minority. There were 28 attacks against Islamic sites, the overwhelming number of which occurred in the RS. There were 17 recorded attacks against Serb Orthodox sites in the Federation, and nine reported attacks against Catholic sites, which were more frequent in the Federation. The Council's report noted that police apprehended perpetrators in 30 of the 56 cases. The Council documented one religiously motivated physical assault against an imam in Gacko in the Federation, and verbal harassment of an Orthodox priest in Gracanica in the Federation and an imam in Dubica in the RS.

During the year some RS politicians expressed support for indicted war criminal Ratko Mladic following Mladic's arrest in May. Kalinovik mayor Mileva

Komlenovic publicly criticized "burdening" Mladic, whom she lauded for his "moral, human, and professional qualities." Vinko Radovanovic, the mayor of East Sarajevo, told reporters that Mladic was no more guilty than any other wartime general from any army. Democratic People's Alliance president

Marko Pavic decried the arrest of his former commander. Mladen Bosic, president of the Serb Democratic Party, attended a rally in Banja Luka on May 31 in protest of Mladic's arrest.

Ethnic discrimination in employment and education remained key problems. In most cases employers did not reverse the widespread firing of members of ethnic minorities during and after the 1992-95 conflict, and employers often hired members of the local ethnic majority over minorities. Human rights activists noted many textbooks that reinforced stereotypes about the country's ethnic groups and others that missed opportunities to dispel stereotypes by excluding any mention of some ethnic groups, particularly Jews and Roma. State- and entity-level officials generally did not act to prevent such discrimination.

An estimated 80,000 to 100,000 Roma were in the country. Some Romani leaders reported an increase in Romani emigration from the country and asylum-seeking abroad during the year due to discrimination in access to social benefits. Roma experienced serious difficulties in enjoying the full range of fundamental human rights provided to them under the law. The Roma Information Council estimated that only 1 percent of the working-age Romani population were employed and indicated that employers usually downsized Roma first during a reduction in force. Many Roma lacked birth certificates, identification cards, or a registered residence, preventing them from accessing health care and public education services or registering to vote. Many human-rights NGOs criticized law enforcement authorities for widespread indifference toward victims of domestic violence and human trafficking in the Romani community.

In April, "Kali Sari," a Roma Decade watchdog NGO, released a report that noted substantial progress in improving the status of the country's Roma population. The report noted the government's programs for improving Romani employment, housing, and health care, as well as for completing a census of Roma, creating a database documenting the needs of Roma, and adopting a new Romani education action plan. However, the report criticized the government for excluding Roma from the decision-making process for allocating assistance to the Romani population. Romani human-rights leaders complained about the lack of transparency in awarding government contracts and allegations of corruption in implementing Roma Decade programs. By year's end the government failed to appoint a national coordinator for Roma Decade implementation.