2014 – Bosnia and Herzegovina Report on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities



Alternative Report on the Implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina


Published by



Lejla Somun-Krupalija

Peer review

Fikret Zuko

Translation into English

Desmond Maurer

Publication Date

April 2014

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Shadow Rapporteur

Lejla Somun-Krupalija

Field Coordinators

Adisa Pamuk, Jasminko Bijelić, Jasna Rebac, Jelena Mišić, Milorad Jović

Monitoring operatives

Elma Dandić, Tatjana Kosak, Almir Jahić, Ivan Primorac, Siniša Telebak, Tima Musić, Alija Muratović (preminuo prošle godine), Enisa Bratović, Nermina Omerović, Brankica Jokić, Predrag Radojčić, Ljiljana Jelisić, Gradimir Kragić, Edib Skulić, Milenko Tripunović, Dušan Đukanović, Rukib Škiljo, Gordana Stupar, Zorica Marković, Mladenka Mihajlović, Boris Cvjetković, Gojko Šurbat, Irfan Kulić, Melita Čano, Amra Trgo, Dževad Kamber, Hamida Čomor

Sign language interpreters and assistants

Adila Zukić, Renato Kričančić, Safeta Baković, Rajko Kličković, Tea Sidro

System monitors

Zoran Dobraš, Fikret Zuko, Suvad Zahirović

Media monitor

Željko Bajić

Data analysts

Ira Adilagić, Elmedin Lelo, Vedran Stanić

Counterparts from the regional DRPI office – Centre for Society Orientation

Radoš Keravica, Miloš Milovanović, Sonja Vasić

Counterparts and friends who provided assistance or advice during the drafting of this report

Amira Krehić from the BiH Ombudsman’s Office, Muhamed Braco Džemidžić and Srđan

Dizdarević of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in BiH

Coordinator of the “Towards Implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities – Empowering Individuals with Disabilities in BIH” project

Nataša Maros

Bosnia and Herzegovina ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, along with the Optional Protocol, in March 2010. The country sent its Initial Report on Implementation of the Convention to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in spring 2013.

As recommended by both the Convention itself and the watchword shared by all persons with disabilities, “Nothing about us without us,” this Shadow or Alternative Report on implementation of the Convention presents the findings of comprehensive monitoring regarding respect for the rights of persons with disabilities. Most of the individuals who participated in or contributed to the monitoring project were themselves persons with various forms of disability, belonging to one of 65 disabled persons organisations organised into five coalitions in five regions within Bosnia and Herzegovina. Work on the project was coordinated by the local representative office of the MyRight organisation.

This is an independent Shadow Report, compiled without the assistance or support of state or government authorities, although support has been received from non-governmental organisations active in the area of human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It has been produced using the Disability Rights Promotion International (DRPI) methodology and provides an integrated overview of the situation with regard to respect for human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as experienced by persons with disabilities themselves.

This report, in itself, represents only a small part of the wealth of resources, capabilities, energy and dedication that individuals with disabilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina are willing and ready to invest in improving their own position in society through monitoring respect for the rights guaranteed them under the Convention.

We would like to thank our donors, including the Austrian Development Cooperation and Light for the World, also from Austria, who recognised the need for this form of activity and secured funding for implementation. We would also like to thank the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) for supporting MyRight’s work in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

We also thank all those who participated and worked directly, whether as individuals or organisations, on the monitoring project or who contributed to the appearance of this report. Their names are given at the end of the report.

MyRight Country Coordinator for Bosnia and Herzegovina

Binasa Goralija

Alternative report on the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Report Summary

This report has been compiled under the aegis of the “Towards implementation of the UN Convention — Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina: 2012–

2014” project. The purpose of the report is to present the real situation facing persons with disabilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, following the Disability Rights Promotion International (DRPI) methodology.

The report was put together between November 2013 and December 2014, on the basis of three constituent monitoring reports looking at the rights of persons with disabilities:

  • A monitoring report of the system (the legal and political framework, as it affects persons with disabilities),
  • A monitoring report on the personal experiences of individuals with disabilities, and
  • A monitoring report on the media (how they cover persons with disabilities).

Persons with disabilities, including all forms of disability, participated in drafting the report, as did the parents of children with disabilities and experts in the area of disability from all parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The process involved a high level of participation and involvement, consultation and cooperation.

The key issues facing individuals with disability in Bosnia and Herzegovina today were found to be:

  • barriers to social participation and inclusion,
  • discrimination on the basis of cause of disability,
  • poor access to services, particularly in education and healthcare,
  • poverty, and
  • discrimination by public employees providing services to them.

A description of the current status of legislation is given for each issue, along with examples from everyday life and of the experiences of individuals with disabilities, illustrating the high degree of discrimination and inequality affecting them in these key areas.

In addition to the monitoring reports, an analysis was carried out of the Initial Report of Bosnia and Herzegovina on Implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, on the basis of which questions are being prepared for an upcoming session of the UN Committee for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Geneva to be used in questioning the BiH state delegation in its deposition to the Committee.

General Recommendations of the Alternative Report of BiH for Improving the Status of Persons With Disabilities

Implementing these recommendations   would allow the state to meet the obligations undertaken by signing and ratifying the Convention.

Recommendations to improve the social inclusion and participation of Persons With Disabilities:

  • All levels of government must take active measures to raise awareness in society as a whole regarding the rights and capabilities of persons with disabilities with a view to combatting stereotypes, prejudices, and harmful behaviour directed at Persons With Disabilities, including those based on age, gender, LGBT orientation, etc.;
  • Create mechanisms at all levels of government to ensure consistent application of accessibility standards for premises and services, making clear responsibilities and sanctions;
  • Provide local and central government funding to ensure accessibility, including the adaptation of public premises and facilities, continuous monitoring of the enforcement of accessibility standards, provision of sign language interpretation services and signage and other materials in Braille, etc, as one of the areas of focus of local disability action plans;
  • Legislate and regulate at all levels of government to establish a system provding Persons With Disabilities with the services of personal assistants in daily life with a view to securing equality of opportunity.
  • Develop a range of programmes and measures strengthening the capacity of families of children with disabilities, in terms of the knowledge and skills required for them and their children to function better in society and so avoid institutional care;
  • Provide a legal framework and funding for DPO participation in consultative and decision-making processes relevant to Persons With Disabilities at all levels of government;
  • Work on developing PwD and DPO awareness and capacities, targetting full use of existing anti-discrimination mechanisms in pursuit of declared rights and freedoms at all levels of government;
  • Make public transport providers legally responsible for ensuring public transport is actually accessible to Persons With Disabilities;
  • Enshrine the right of Persons With Disabilities to information in appropriate and accessible formats and modalities ( sign language services, Braille, large print, audio or electronic recordings, easy-read text, non-verbal forms, standardised accessibility to public institutions’ Internet pages and the use of facsimiles by blind or vision-impaired individuals) in law and regulatory codes at state, entity and cantonal levels and ensure funding for implementation;
  • Ensure equal participation by Persons With Disabilities in the electoral process, in line with UN standards, including accessibility, confidentiality of the ballot and the provision of election materials and voting papers in all the accessible formats.

Recommendations on eliminating discrimination against Persons With Disabilities:

  • Ensure that entity-level laws make no distinction between the rights to support for equalisation of opportunity accorded persons with disabilities on the basis of how or when their disabilities came about;
  • Define and ban discrimination on the basis of disability in the constitutions and in any laws which touch on the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including especially the Anti-Discrimination Law of BiH;
  • Bring the definition of disability in BiH legislation into line with the definition in the Convention: in doing so, explicitly recognise the importance and impact of environmental factors and build them into the definition itself;
  • Provide an institutional mechanism for affirming the status of persons with disability and adopt a single set of criteria for assessing that status, regardless of the cause of the disability.

Recommendations on ensuring the basic education and healthcare rights of Persons With Disabilities:

  • Harmonise the principles of good quality inclusive education at all levels of education with the Convention and secure the financial and other resources required for implementation: Include the relevant ministries of education, pedagogical institutes, public information services and media and non-governmental organisations, particularly disabled persons organisations;
  • Eliminate all discriminatory phrasing from legislation and other provisions in the field of education, bringing the provisions into line with the definitions from the Convention;
  • Legislate and otherwise regulate at all levels of government for the establishment of a system of assistive services in education, to support the inclusion of children and other persons with disabilities in the general educational system and ensure funding for the same;
  • Require the education ministries and relevant local level institutions to budget separately for inclusive education, which entails: ensuring architectural accessibility, purchasing the required orthopedic, typological and other aids, teaching materials, textbooks and other literature, in accessible formats and modalities, as well as securing other forms of support (teaching assistants, sign language interpreters, and personal assistance, etc);
  • Carry out an urgent assessment of the accessibility of all educational and healthcare facilities, including all levels of education, ensuring the application of sanctions and other measures to ensure accessibility;
  • Include a mandatory element on training for   inclusive education in all training programmes for teaching staff;
  • Ensure observation of children with disabilities takes place within their educational environment, without the need to displace them for the purposes of observation;
  • Review the standards for assessing disability in children and admitting them to day centres and other forms of institutional care, to ensure that children who can attend inclusive classes are not excluded from the regular educational process;
  • Introduce certification of teaching and other staff authorised to assess the degree of a child’s disability, capacities and potential;
  • Enshrine in legal and other regulatory provisions at all levels of government the right to healthcare of all individuals with disabilities;
  • Stipulate clearly in the entity laws on health insurance the criteria for issuing aids or assistive devices to individuals with disabilities, with a view to ensuring personal mobility and ability to participate in social life. These criteria should ensure an individualised approach, so that the aids are issued in accordance with the real needs of the disabled individual, rather than based on the diagnosis alone;
  • Stipulate clearly in both entities’ health insurance laws the right of all individuals with disabilities to orthopaedic, typhological and other aids, the quality standards for such aids, criteria for issuing them, and the budgetary modalities for funding;
  • Develop programmes and measures to stimulate work on preventing disability;
  • Stipulate clearly in entity-level law and other provisions the standards for architectural accessibility and outfitting, requiring their application to any new construction in healthcare and setting a time frame for the adaptation of existing buildings and purchase of equipment.

Recommendations on combating the poverty of Persons With Disabilities and their families:

  • Set a legal minimum income for persons with disabilities in both entities, taking into account the additional costs they and their families incur because of the disability;
  • Legislate clearly that social protection and welfare entitlements, their scope and scale and the manner in which they are claimed must be administered according to the same criteria for all persons with disabilities, regardless of where they live or how and when their disability came about;
  • Distinguish clearly in the entity-level laws in both entities between spending on social security and spending on support services for persons with disabilities to ensure equality of opportunity;
  • Legislate for the establishment of a system of support services for the personal mobility, everyday functioning, and social inclusion of persons with disabilities, identifying clear sources of funding;
  • Stipulate clearly in the entity labour laws of both the FBiH and RS that health status cannot be considered in employing persons with disabilities, so long as they are professionally qualified for the job in question;
  • Clearly stipulate in the laws on professional rehabilitation, training and employment the criteria and mechanisms, including additional incentives, for employing individuals with severe disabilities;
  • Develop an institutional system of rehabilitation and professional rehabilitation in both entities based on the same principles, to be financed out of the budgets of state-level institutions and funds;
  • Introduce reform of the disability pension insurance system, so as to incorporate the rights of persons with disabilities on the basis of their disability;
  • Stipulate in entity-level law the requirement that local authorities develop social housing and community housing programmes for individuals with disabilities and plan accordingly in their budgets;
  • Work on raising awareness of the importance of employment for persons with disabilities as equal members of society.

2.1 Special recommendations regarding government employees

The following recommendations are made with a view to eliminating the day-to-day discrimination persons with disabilities experience at the hands of government employees providing public services:

  • Explicitly define and forbid discrimination on the basis of disability in the Anti- Discrimination Law and any other laws that treat discrimination;
  • Take active measures to raise the awareness and develop the other capacities of individuals with disabilities and of their organisations, with a view to promoting anti-discrimination mechanisms as tools for securing the exercise of their declared rights and freedoms;
  • Include a mandatory element on the rights of persons with disabilities and preventing discrimination against them and their families (bearing in mind all relevant differences in terms of age, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) in all training programmes at public institutions, on the basis of joint work with disabled persons organisations;
  • Incorporate activities designed to raise social awareness of persons with disabilities, including their own self-awareness, into all strategies and action plans developed by state-level institutions and allocate funding for such activities.


3.1 The context in Bosnia and Herzegovina1

Bosnia and Herzegovina is defined by Annex IV of the Dayton Peace Agreement2, which contains the country’s Constitution, in territorial terms as a complex state, made up of two entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) and the Republika Srpska (RS), as well as of Brčko District.3 The entities in Bosnia and Herzegovina are organised asymmetrically – the RS is centralised, with two levels of government, an entity and a municipal or local level, while the FBiH is decentralised, with three levels of government, the entity and the cantonal (10 Cantons) and municipal levels.

Under the Constitution, Bosnia and Herzegovina is defined as a parliamentary democracy. The key institutions of the state-level are the bicameral Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina, made up of a House of Peoples and a House of Representatives, and the collective head of state, the three-member Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Council of Ministers, and the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Legislative authority is organised differently in the entities: in the RS there is a unicameral National Assembly and a Council of Peoples, which ensures the protection of national interests, while in the FBiH the Parliament is bicameral. In the FBiH, however, each of the 10 cantons has its own constitution, a single chamber assembly, and powers and authorities that are reserved to that level or shared with the entity level.

Article 3 of the Constitution stipulates that only a certain number of issues related to international relations, economic policy and obligations taken over internationally and their countrywide application or implementation lie fully within the jurisdiction of the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. From this, it follows that all key areas relating to persons with disabilities, including labour and employment, social protection, education, transport and communications, healthcare, and so forth lie within the exclusive jurisdiction of the entities, while in the FBiH they are subject to further division between the entity and the cantons.

Note #1
This chapter is largely based on direct quotation or paraphrase of sections of the MyRight Report on System Monitoring, pp. 2-7
Note #2
Agreed on 21/11/1995 in Dayton, USA, and officially signed in Paris, France, on 14/12/1995
Note #3
Established by international arbitration on 08/03/2000, the District has its own institutions and legal system

The number of people in the country with disabilities is not known, as there are no reliable demographic data for Bosnia and Herzegovina as a whole.4 Preliminary data from the recent census indicate a total population of 3,791,622.5 According to WHO information, persons with disabilities make up on average 15% of the population of any given country. Accordingly, one may estimate approximately 568,743 persons with disabilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Note #4
The census was conducted between the 1st and 15th of October, 2013. Preliminary results will only be available as of 15/01/2014 and could not be used during the reporting period.
Note #5
Preliminarni Rezultati accessed 10/11/2013

Bosnian and Herzegovinian society has passed through multiple processes of transition over the past 20 years: transition in economic relations (from a socialised to a private economy, from a closed and protected to an open market); transition of the political system (from a single party to a multi-party democratic system); and the transition of a post-conflict country (even though there has been peace since December 1995, the consequences of the 1992 to 1995 war continue to be reflected in cases of post-traumatic syndrome amongst the internally displaced population and in a general level of distrust).

The key trends in social development in Bosnia and Herzegovina are tied to the decision to seek closer relations with Euro-Atlantic institutions and membership in the European Union and the associated processes. These trends entail the implementation of a series of reforms, bringing local legislation into line with international and EU standards. Issues related to disability have a significant place in the reform process in Bosnia and Herzegovina, serving to underline the political commitment to regulate for these issues in accordance with international standards in the area of disability. In spite of a large number of simultaneous reform processes and, in part at least, due to the insufficient institutional and financial resources of the state and to the underdeveloped and underfunded condition of the disabled persons’ movement, not to mention the public’s misguided and negative opinions and prejudices regarding persons with disabilities, their position in Bosnian and Herzegovinian society remains exceptionally poor. Gross domestic product in 2011 was 25,734 million KM, or 6709 KM per capita.6

Most specific legal provisions relating to persons with disabilities are based on the medical approach to disability and, consequently, envisage no mechanisms for their fuller inclusion or active participation in creating the environment they live in. They are designed simply to secure the elementary preconditions for meeting basic needs.

The only documents prepared with the participation or under the leadership of DPOs, in cooperation with institutions at any level of government in Bosnia and Herzegovina, have been the BiH Disability Policy7 and the two related entity-level strategy documents.8

Note #6
Source: BHAS Website accessed 12/06/2013
Note #7
Official Gazette of BiH, no 76/08
Note #8
Passed in the FBiH and RS in 2011 (the Strategija za izjednačavanje mogućnosti za osobe s invaliditetom u FBiH 2011- 2015 adopted at the 4th Session of the FBiH Parliamentary Assembly, on 28/7/2011 and the Strategija za unapređenje društvenog položaja lica s invaliditetom u RS 2010-2015, passed at the 184th Session of the RS Government on 29/07/2010)

In spite of the complex structure of the state or how authorities are carved up and the various possible ways that exist for dealing with issues legislatively at different levels, it remains a fact that by accepting and signing the international conventions on human rights, Bosnia and Herzegovina undertook an obligation to secure the same fundamental conditions of life for all its citizens throughout the state, without discrimination on any basis. The country is obliged to meet the standards of human rights that arise from the international documents it has signed and ratified and individuals with disabilities have a right to demand protection from discrimination, as well as a right to full enjoyment and realisation of all their human rights, as set out in these international documents.

3.2 On the Alternative Report for Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina ratified the Convention and the Optional Protocol to it without reserve or comment in March 2010, giving rise to an obligation to report on its implementation. An Initial Report was delivered to the United Nations at the end of January 2013. Most DPOs, particularly those active at the local community level or outside major urban centres, were unable to express their views regarding the state’s achievements in applying the Convention within the framework of that national report.

This Alternative Report has been prepared following the Disability Rights Promotion International (DRPI) methodology9 within a project entitled “Towards Implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – Empowering People with Disabilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”10

Note #9
Read about Disability Rights Monitoring on the DRPI website.
Note #10
“Towards the implementation of the UN-Convention – empowerment of persons with disabilities in Bosnia Herzegovina“ (Project number 00866) financed by Light of the World and Austrian Development Cooperation

DRPI has developed a holistic approach to monitoring the rights of persons with disabilities, focusing on fact gathering in three key areas:

  • the experiences of persons with disabilities at an individual level;
  • systemic measures taken to protect and promote their rights (laws, policies, programmes); and
  • media descriptions and coverage of disability.

The entire process involved cooperation, workshops and meetings between MyRight, the Centre for Society Orientation (COD) – the DRPI coordinator for the European region, and all the various participants in the project to draft the Alternative Report. The process of preparing this Alternative Report has been guided by principles of accessibility, human rights, participation and gender equality.11

An overview of the data collection method used, with information on sample size and experiences during fieldwork is given in Annex III.

Note #11
A detailed description of the process and chronology of drafting the Alternative Report is given in Annex IV

Key Issues for Persons With Disabilities


Annex 1

Annex 2

Annex 3