Bosnia and Herzegovina has become the first country in Europe not to implement a COVID passport system. The scheme, which would force citizens to provide proof of vaccination status, has been described as ‘disproportionate’ and ‘segregational’ by its opponents in Bosnia.
The country on the Balkan Peninsula in south-eastern Europe, bordered by Croatia to the north and west, and by Serbia and Montenegro to the east (often informally known as Bosnia) had been facing the introduction of a COVID passport scheme identical to other systems in place across Europe, before a legal challenge was brought.
Bosnia and Herzegovina never became part of the European Union, and was only accepted to apply for membership in 2016. Croatia, however, as part of the EU, has implemented a COVID passport scheme.
Controversial COVID passports were shot down after the President of the Bosnian Party (BOSS) and lawyer, Mirnes Ajanović, challenged the Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in a constitutional and legal battle.
Fellow lawyers from the nearby Republic of Slovenia have comparatively clarified the situation in the European state, questioning in particular the “violations of citizens’ rights and forced vaccination”. Ajanović argued that the proposed introduction of COVID passports in the European state would represent a form of discrimination against citizens and a violation of basic rights and freedoms, such as the right to freedom of movement, opinion, labour, assembly and expression, which he said must not be tolerated.
Last month, a meeting was held on International Human Rights Day between lawyers from Bosnia and Herzegovina and neighbouring state Serbia to send a public message that “all legal means must thwart any attack on human rights” and “any conspiracy against the constitution of states, laws, freedoms of citizens and fundamental human rights anywhere in the world,” according to the office of Mirnes Ajanović.
Following the rejection of COVID passports in Bosnia, Ajanović filed a criminal complaint against Dr. Ednan Drljević, Head of the Infectious Department of the General Hospital in Bosnian capital Sarajevo for “discriminatory attitudes towards unvaccinated people” according to the country’s media.
Ajanović filed the criminal charges in response to Dr. Drljević’s comments on Bosnian television. During the TV appearance in December, he said that citizens “should avoid unvaccinated people,” and he told all vaccinated people not to accept those who are not vaccinated into their society. Because of the statements, the President of the Bosnian Party said that Drljević would be met with criminal charges on the first working day after Christmas, the 31st December.
Bosnian media reported that campaigners said all citizens should “express their gratitude” to the lawyer for opposing the inhuman discrimination against citizens by Dr. Ednan Drljević, who told the vaccinated in a Christmas message not to associate with the unvaccinated.
Ajanović addressed Drljević, stating that he was facing a criminal complaint to the FBiH Federal Prosecutor’s Office for prohibited discrimination, arguing that he was guilty of harassment and bullying.
“’Harassment is any unwanted behaviour caused by one of the grounds of a member of this Act that aims or really constitutes a violation of the dignity of a person and the creation of a frightening, hostile, degrading, degrading or abusive environment’, all in connection with a member of the Criminal Code of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Ajanović stated. He added that Drljević was guilty of bullying, which he defined as “gross insulting or abusing another, violence towards another, provoking a fight or particularly brazen or reckless behaviour, threatens civil peace, adding that such behaviour ”will be punished with a prison sentence of three months to three years”.
In the summer, Ajanović launched a battle against the Sarajevo Minister for Health, Haris Vranic, after Vranic released a statement saying that he would have no sympathy for citizens who did not want to be vaccinated, and who, as he explained, are resisting COVID vaccination.
Ajanović said that Vranic was showing contempt for the unvaccinated, and said at the time that he would challenge attempts to ban those who are not vaccinated from taking part in public life, as he accused Vranic and others of an “abuse of power”.
“He thus announced a ban on entering service and public facilities for these citizens, which was publicly supported by the Prime Minister of the CS, Edin Forto, so they were reported for violating Article 383 of the Criminal Code of Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) – Abuse of power, related to the Article 28 of the FBIH Criminal Code – Try, everything related to Article 2 of the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination in BiH, ” said Ajanovic.
Mirnes Ajanović succeeded in applying the Bosnia Herzegovinian Constitution, laws and criminal charges, along with presenting concrete evidence that vaccinated people transmit the virus as well as unvaccinated ones, along with the argument that it is ‘absurd’ to introduce a code certificate – to force the government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina to withdraw the decree, which he said would stop the introduction of “totalitarianism and discrimination” against Bosnian citizens, according to bih news.
Mirnes Ajanović’s months-long struggle for the rule of law without divisions and restrictions has led to Bosnia and Herzegovina being the first and only country in Europe to be exempt from COVID passports. Supporters of Ajanović stated that his “struggle should be a guide to other lawyers, academics and free thinkers around the world that freedom can be accomplished”.
Bih news also reports that COVID infection in Bosnia is going down. Bosnia and Herzegovina has only fully vaccinated just over 24% of its 3.3 million people.
The nation’s refusal to introduce a COVID passport system has pleased the country’s winter tourism industry. Earlier this month, thousands of skiers from around Bosnia, the Balkans and EU nations, happily raced through fresh snow on Bosnian mountain slopes following the official kick-off for the winter season on 4th December.
Once a person is in Bosnia, they are not required to present proof of vaccination, a recent recovery or a recent negative test to access the ski slopes, bars, restaurants or cultural venues. While indoor mask-wearing and social distancing mandates have been implemented, a COVID passport system does not seem likely to come to fruition.