Minorities in the Armed Forces

{gallery}newsletters/13/1{/gallery}Among 10,000 professional members of BiH Armed Forces, there are only 18 of them who belong to minority or “other” ethnic group that is not constitutive! The percentage of soldiers from this category should be 0.7 %, but according to official data we have received from the BiH Ministry of Defense, at the moment, the percentage does not exceed 0.2.

Significant efforts occurred throughout the defense reform process to allocate the BiH Armed Forces staff in a fair way which mirrors the populations of BiH’s constituent peoples.  However, it appears that the category of “others” was completely neglected. Among these 18 soldiers that do not belong to any of three constitutive peoples in BiH there are Albanians, Montenegrins, Czechs, Macedonians, Rusyns, Slovenians and Ukrainians.

Filling Positions

When questioned regarding the representation of minorities in the military, the BiH Ministry of Defense referred to Article 21, Paragraph 2 of the Law on Defense of BiH which requires the employment of “others” within the armed forces.  In addition to this legal requirement, the Decision on Size, Structure and Locations of the BiH Armed Forces number 01-011-1110-6/06 from July 5, 2006 states the required percentages of various groups of people to be employed by the BiH Armed Forces. According to these guidelines, Bosniaks should comprise 45.9% of Armed Forces, Serbs 33.6% and Croats 19.8%, respectively. 0.7% of the armed forces is legally required to be composed of “others.”

However, in a situation where the correct percentage of “others” is not reached, the positions should be proportionally filled with members of the constituent peoples.  This certainly reflects the current situation in BiH where members of the constituent peoples are being hired by the Ministry of Defense, rather than “others.

Atlantic Initiative (AI) was informed via a written statement from the Ministry of Defense that not all 18 professional soldiers who identify themselves as “others” were in the military service prior to the formation of the BiH Armed Forces.  The statement explains that “a number of soldiers were taken over from entity armies when the joint Armed Forces were formed.  Others were first employed after January 1, 2006.”

Further investigation on the part of AI staff revealed that BiH’s population has never conducted public discussions about the Armed Forces or the role of “others” within military structures.  Civil society representatives questioned failed to express concrete opinions regarding this.  Typical responses from human rights organizations and the NGO sector represented a general lack of information or interest. This is only one indicator displaying how citizens who are not members of one of the three constituent peoples are perceived and treated in BiH.

Whose Traditions?

The Law on Employment of the BiH Armed Forces states that infantry regiments, although non-operative formations, retain the identity and military legacy of their constitutive nation. These military legacies are the Army of RBiH, the Croatian Defense Council and the Republika Srpska Army. Those who declare themselves “others” have no choice but to follow their respective military legacy if they were previously employed by one of the military formations of the constituent peoples.

The current practice of the BiH Armed Forces is not suitable for members of “other” ethnic groups and minorities. This is likely one of the main factors contributing to the extremely low employment rate of such individuals in the military.  Not only the “others,” but all of BiH suffers as a result.


Photo: AI