Bosnia and Herzegovina

Contextual Information

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) emerged from Yugoslavia in 1995 after the end of the Bosnian War (1992-1995). BiH consists of two entities with extensive autonomy, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Srpska, as well as the small self-governing administrative Brčsko District. Each of these divisions has its own distinct policing structure: the Federation of BiH has a decentralized police with 10 different cantonal police forces, the Republic of Srpska has a separate centralized police, and in the Brčsko District one centralized police, as well as several state-level police agencies.

While the police are considered the primary security provider in BiH, they are accused by the population as being controlled by politicians.  Corruption and nepotism are regarded as pervasive across all levels of government. BiH’s state structure and legislative framework is fragmented, and the justice system and law enforcement are ineffective.

Beyond the police, private security companies provide security for businesses, private property, and individuals. These private initiatives are, however, certified, controlled and monitored by the police. The owners of the most important private security companies are reported to have connections with people in power.

Human Security Concerns

Physical security in BiH is relatively stable. The majority of crimes reported include theft and burglary, and occur mostly in urban areas. Organized crime (including trafficking and smuggling) is substantial, and violence among members of such groups is common. These groups have access to military grade weapons still present in the country from the period of war. Still, socioeconomic concerns remain the greatest source of insecurity for the population of BiH.

Radicalization is also a concern. This includes young people joining religious extremist groups in Syria, as well as nationalist extremists who rile up ethnic tensions within the population. Inter-ethnic tension and political division persists between the constituent peoples of BiH: Bosnians, Croats and Serbs, and there are certain groups among these that advocate for seceding from BiH and joining with neighboring countries (most notably Serbia).

Because the constitution of BiH primarily concerns itself with its three constituent peoples, ethnic and religious minorities such as Roma and Jews are excluded from political office and often overlooked. 25 years after the war’s end, BiH still has high numbers of internally displaced peoples. Other marginalized groups face specific challenges in BiH: LGBT people face discrimination, women face high levels of gender violence and are severely underrepresented in political office, and youth may face and high levels of unemployment, violence, and radicalization risks.

Status of Police Reform and COP

Following the Bosnian war, the UN supported a broad security reform that attempted to restructure the paramilitary police forces that had served various factions in the country during the conflict. As a part of this reform, the International Police Task Force (IPTF) was created, and from 1996-2002 provided special training courses that included educational materials on COP to all police officers. From 2003-2012, the European Union Police Mission in BiH worked on reform that included COP as one of its goals. Since then, various smaller scale and more localized COP efforts have been attempted within the country and there is a larger-scale strategy on COP implementation from various police bodies with international support.

ICT development in BiH is similar to that of Europe at large – it is widely available, and its usage is steadily increasing, particularly among the youngest layers of the population. Although fragmentation and insufficient police cooperation makes any nationwide effort difficult to implement, a crime hotline known as Krimolovci (crime busters) introduced nationally by the European Police Mission in BiH (EUPM) is widely used to anonymously report offenses to the police. Communication between police and citizens occurs most frequently in person or through the emergency number (122), although email communication, SMS services, web forms and even applications are used in various parts of the country to administer fines and payments, deliver praise or complaints, and to report incidents.