Washington – A draft law under consideration in Bosnia and Herzegovina would fall short of international commitments to protect religious freedom, according to a staff report issued today by the United States Helsinki Commission.
Authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina are considering legislation with provisions potentially restricting the rights of religious communities. The report analyzes the draft law on religion in light of the commitments freely undertaken by Bosnia and Herzegovina as a participating State in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
“I hope that parliamentarians and government officials will seriously consider this report and implement its recommendations,” said Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ). “I understand the draft law will be considered soon, so I urge my counterparts in the parliament to further refine and evaluate the draft, to bring it into conformity with Bosnia and Herzegovina’s human rights commitments since becoming a party to the Helsinki Accords.”
The “Law on Freedom of Religion and the Legal Position of Churches and Religious Communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina” contains “some troubling provisions that should be altered before adoption” concerning, among other things, penalties against free speech and numerical thresholds for obtaining legal status, according to the Helsinki Commission report. The report does note that “many parts of the draft law are well constructed, explicitly protecting manifestations of religious belief while limiting the ability of the government to interfere into the internal affairs of a religious group.”
The report is available through the Helsinki Commission’s web site at www.csce.gov. The report is part of an ongoing series of reports examining laws and draft legislation affecting religious freedom in OSCE participating States.