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Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities considers initial report of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Committee on the Rights of Persons                                                                                                                         
  with Disabilities

28 March 2017

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities today concluded its consideration of the initial report of Bosnia and Herzegovina on its implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

In the presentation of the report, Saliha Djuderija, Assistant Minister for Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina, recalled that the Convention and its Optional Protocol had entered into force in April 2010.  Both entities in Bosnia and Herzegovina had adopted their own strategies for the enhancement of the position of persons with disabilities.  Bosnia and Herzegovina had made progress in the legal framework; particularly important was the amendment of the anti-discrimination law which was now fully compliant with European standards, and the adoption of the law on legal aid of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The Council of Persons with Disabilities of Bosnia and Herzegovina worked on the promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities and advocated harmonization of the legislation and consistent implementation of the Convention.  As a consequence of the war fought in the 1990s, Bosnia and Herzegovina had a large number of persons with disabilities; all levels of government in the country were committed to improving their situation and inclusion in all walks of life, concluded Ms. Djuderija.

In the ensuing discussion, Committee Experts noted that Bosnia and Herzegovina faced two major challenges; the first was a financial one related to limited resources for the support of persons with disabilities, and here Experts stressed the fundamental importance of political will and commitment to prioritize the rights of persons with disabilities, which would then translate into allocation of resources.  The second issue was the implementation of positive discrimination measures, in which the consultation with persons with disabilities and their inclusion and participation in law and policy-making must be the necessary first step.  Experts noted with concern that the policy on disability was discriminatory as it prioritized persons with war-related disabilities, such as war veterans and civil victims of war, over others.  It was surprising that the report of Bosnia and Herzegovina was silent on the situation of women and girls with disabilities, Expert noted and inquired about policies and programmes in place to address multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and promote the empowerment and inclusion of women and girls with disabilities.

In concluding remarks, Laszlo Gabor Lovaszy, a Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Bosnia and Herzegovina, urged Bosnia and Herzegovina to implement the Committee’s concluding observations with as many organizations of persons with disabilities as possible, particularly those active at the local level. 

Ms. Djuderija, in her concluding remarks thanked the Committee and reassured the Experts that their comments and conclusions would be a guideline for Bosnia and Herzegovina in the improvement of the situation of persons with disabilities. 

Theresia Degener, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the very rich and constructive dialogue in which many important issues had been discussed.

The delegation of Bosnia and Herzegovina included representatives of the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ministry of Civil Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ministry of Labour and Social Policy of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Department of Health and Other Services of Brcko District, Ministry of Labour, War Veterans and Disabled Persons’ Protection of Republika Srpska, Council for Persons with Disabilities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as representatives of the Permanent Mission of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. today, 28 March, to begin its consideration of the initial report of Jordan (CRPD/C/JOR/1).

Report

The initial report of Bosnia and Herzegovina can be read here: CRPD/C/BIH/1.

Presentation of the Report

SALIHA DJUDERIJA, Assistant Minister for Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina, recalled that the Convention and its Optional Protocol had entered into force in April 2010.  The Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees was in charge of coordinating the drafting of the background report on Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the constitutional structure and basic cross-departmental policy and legal documents governing the rights of persons with disabilities.  Both entities in Bosnia and Herzegovina had adopted their own strategies for the enhancement of the position of persons with disabilities.  Bosnia and Herzegovina had made progress in the legal framework, particularly the amendment of the law against discrimination which had been brought in full compliance with European standards.  Persons with disabilities had been added as a separate group to this law.  The law on legal aid of Bosnia and Herzegovina had been passed and the implementation had started at the State level.

The Republika Srpska had passed a new law on social protection, while the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina was in the process of drafting it.  The Council of Persons with Disabilities of Bosnia and Herzegovina worked on the promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities and advocated harmonization of the legislation and consistent implementation of the Convention.  In 2016, a technical assistance budget of 40,000 BAM (Bosnian Convertible Marka) had been allocated in support of organizations of persons with disabilities; a similar amount would be allocated in the coming period.  Bosnia and Herzegovina had provided data on persons with disabilities, and these statistics would be used in the demographic and socio-economic study of persons with disabilities and would present a great tool in further strategic planning and policy making.  As a consequence of the war fought in the 1990s, Bosnia and Herzegovina had a large number of persons with disabilities; all levels of government in the country were committed to improving their situation and inclusion in all walks of life.

Questions from the Committee Experts

LASZLO GABOR LOVASZY, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Bosnia and Herzegovina, welcomed the contribution made to the work of the Committee by the organizations of persons with disabilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was particularly valuable considering the extreme resource constraints under which the Committee operated.  Bosnia and Herzegovina had shown sincere commitment to join the international community, which was evident by the ratification of an extensive list of international treaties, including the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the fact that Bosnia and Herzegovina did not enter any reservations.  Mr. Lovaszy recognized the unique challenges that Bosnia and Herzegovina faced due to its constitutional arrangements, and stressed the obligation of the State for the implementation of the Convention throughout its territory.  He also stressed that the purpose of the dialogue was not only to question but to help States parties in the implementation of the Convention.

Recognizing the challenges of the past events in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the country Rapporteur reaffirmed his commitment to cover as many issues as possible during the dialogue, for the benefit of persons with disabilities in the country.  Mr. Lovaszy said that an important question in the discussion would be how the organizations of persons with disabilities were involved in the implementation of the legislation, and which incentives were in place to support this.  Inclusive education, and issues of social protection, would also be discussed.

Another Committee Expert welcomed the participation of persons with disabilities in the Council of Persons with Disabilities, which was in charge of the implementation of the Convention, and asked how the members of the Council were selected and appointed.  Awareness raising was largely in the hands of civil society and in particular organizations of persons with disabilities.  How did the State facilitate the work of those associations in raising awareness on the rights of persons with disabilities?

What measures were being taken to remove barriers to physical access that still existed in the country?

The delegation was asked about the support in place, including financial support, to associations of persons with disabilities; measures in place to ensure the participation of persons with disabilities in decision-making; and what was being done to protect persons with disabilities from discrimination and violence.  Did children with disabilities equally participate in the Children’s Council and any other mechanism to ensure that their voices were heard and their contributions given full weight?

Another Expert asked whether persons with disabilities, while vindicating their rights, invoked the Convention, or different pieces of legislation in the country.  How many complaints had been submitted for disability-based discrimination and what were their outcomes, and sanctions if any?  Were there any help lines for women and girls with disabilities exposed to violence, were safe houses accessible for wheelchair users, and what system was in place to provide support to women and girls with intellectual disabilities who were victims of violence?

Turning to the backbone of the Convention – the issue of accessibility – the Committee Expert asked about accessibility standards in Bosnia and Herzegovina and penalties for non-compliance, and whether university training of architects and engineers included training in accessibility and universal design.  What progress was being made in removing physical barriers for wheelchair users and in making public transport accessible for persons with disabilities?

Were women with disabilities consulted in the preparation of gender policy and action plans, and what was being done to ensure that they were consulted on other issues as well?  How many girls with disabilities were without secondary school education?

Were there large campaigns which aimed to raise awareness about the situation and rights of persons with disabilities?  How many State agents and officials had been trained in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?

One of the fundamental articles of the Convention had not been implemented as yet in Bosnia and Herzegovina, namely article 4 which guided States parties in the process of developing and harmonizing national legislation with the provisions of the Convention.  The Expert also raised the issue of accessibility, asking about training programmes for sign language interpreters, and the assistance in place to ensure access to the Internet and other information platforms for persons with disabilities.

Another Expert noted that a significant proportion of disabilities was related to the conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina and asked whether this kind of disability received differentiated treatment, or if the approach did not make a difference in the origin of the disability.

Experts noted that Bosnia and Herzegovina faced two major challenges; the first was a financial one related to limited resources for the support of persons with disabilities, and here Experts stressed the fundamental importance of political will and commitment, and a prioritization of rights of persons with disabilities, which would then translate into allocation of resources.  The second issue was the implementation of positive discrimination measures, Experts said, stressing that the inclusion of and consultation with persons with disabilities in law and policy making must be the necessary first step.  Were there any plans to bring the definition of disability in line with the Convention and to adopt a human rights based approach to disability throughout the country?

What were the intentions to harmonize all laws and policies on disability within the country with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?  This would be a formidable challenge, given the complex situation in the country.  There were three different categorizations of persons with disabilities, which received different support by the Government: the war veterans for the priority category, followed by victims of war, and others.  While the commitment to war veterans was commendable, this categorization actually introduced primacy of rights of ones over the others.

LASZLO GABOR LOVASZY, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Bosnia and Herzegovina, asked how persons with disabilities were protected from all forms of discrimination in all walks of life and how they could file complaints.  What was the position of Bosnia and Herzegovina with regards to the introduction of temporary special measures for the participation of persons with disabilities?

THERESIA DEGENER, Committee Chairperson, asked whether the denial of reasonable accommodation was recognized as a ground for discrimination in the amended anti-discrimination law, and whether the law covered multiple forms of discrimination.  The Chairperson was surprised that the report of Bosnia and Herzegovina was silent on the situation of women and girls with disabilities, and asked about programmes in place to promote their empowerment.

Response by the Delegation

Responding to the questions and comments, the delegation explained that different levels of Government – the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republika Srpska, Brcko District, cantons in the Federation - provided for different levels of protection for persons with disabilities, so the situation in this regard was rather complex.

With regard to public awareness raising, the delegation said that some important dates, such as 3 December, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and 10 December, Human Rights Day, were opportunities to discuss the rights and inclusion of persons with disabilities, with the participation of the Council for Children and the Parliamentary Commission for Human Rights.

The Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina had started allocating resources for organizations of persons with disabilities in 2016, to support their various activities, and it was hoped this would continue.

The new anti-discrimination law recognized persons with disabilities as a separate group, and it also recognized denial of reasonable accountability as a ground for disability-based discrimination.  One of the mechanisms for the protection from discrimination was through the Office of the Ombudsman; the recommendations issued by the office were not binding in nature and there were no sanctions for non-compliance.  The anti-discrimination law had introduced a novelty, whereby the Ombudsman’s recommendations would be adopted by the Parliament Assembly, which would then address them to the body in charge.  The second mechanism of protection was the possibility of a law suit by persons with disabilities, and the new law on legal aid ensured access to legal aid to persons with disabilities on an equal basis as any other citizen.  The anti-discrimination law also provided for a collective legal action for systemic discrimination on the grounds of disability.

Bosnia and Herzegovina had adopted a policy on the rights of persons with disabilities which enabled the entities to develop their own strategies and policies for the promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities.  This policy had been adopted before the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and had been a major achievement in this field.

The Council of Persons with Disabilities of Bosnia and Herzegovina had been created in 2011, and it was composed of 20 members, 10 representing the Government and 10 representing organizations of persons with disabilities.  The Council worked on the promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities and advocated harmonization of the legislation and consistent implementation of the Convention.  Since only 10 seats were allocated to representatives of persons with disabilities, and as there were many more associations of persons with disabilities, the decision had been made to ensure that all types of disabilities were represented, with umbrella organizations from each entity appointing their representatives.

In terms of raising awareness about the rights and needs of persons with disabilities, the delegate explained that various activities such as round tables, media campaigns, and public discussions had been organized by persons with disabilities and the different levels of Government on the occasion of important dates and days.  For example, the marking of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Human Rights Day, the White Stick Day, World Down Syndrome Day, and others.  In addition, round tables and discussions had been held in the framework of drafting action plans for the implementation of the strategy of inclusion in the 10 cantons of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  In December 2016, the Federation had adopted the strategy to advance the position of persons with disabilities 2016-2021, whereby one key activity was awareness raising about the rights and needs of persons with disabilities with the view of removing stereotypes. 

One of the key steps in addressing multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination was the education of persons with disabilities on their rights, as well as developing specific guidelines for the exercise of their rights which would be adapted to different groups of persons with disabilities.  A delegate stressed that organizations representing the rights of women and children with disabilities would be important partners in future policy development. 

Safe houses for women and girls victims of violence often hosted women and girls with disabilities who suffered from violence.  The Gender Equality Plan also included programmes focusing on the most vulnerable groups of women, in particular women and girls with disabilities and Roma women with disabilities.  The delegation stressed that the implementation of such programmes was very complex and challenging as it involved the close cooperation and participation of persons with disabilities themselves.

As for discrimination on the grounds of disability in social protection, a delegate explained that disability-related rights were derived from the status of that person and the origin of disability – war veterans, civil victims of war, and other disabilities – with persons with war-related disabilities receiving higher amounts in benefits.  To date, authorities throughout the country were not willing to ensure equal rights for all persons with disabilities regardless of the origin of disability, particularly as they met a lot of resistance from war veterans’ associations. 

In order to improve the situation, a draft law had been adopted on common principles and financial support of persons with disabilities; the draft law incorporated principles of the Convention and rested on the idea of equal treatment of all persons with disabilities, regardless of the origin of disability.  The proposal was that all persons with disabilities would receive the same benefits, with a separate law to be adopted to regulate additional allocations for the war veterans and civil victims of war, which would make up for the difference, but would be a payment that was not linked with disability.  If adopted, this law would oblige all authorities to harmonize the law with the Convention.  More than 50 per cent of the Federal budget went into various social transfers to persons with disabilities, and of this portion, the largest proportion went to persons with war-related disability.  This represented huge discrimination and must be addressed.

Another problem in Bosnia and Herzegovina was that there was no unified definition of disability, it varied from one law to another.  Further, to date, all problems and issues related to persons with disabilities were automatically referred to only one institution – the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, while the issue of disability was a societal problem which required the active participation of all actors in the society. 

The definition of disability in Republika Srpska had been improved and aligned with the definition contained in the Convention.  The national strategy for the inclusion of persons with disabilities 2016 – 2020 was now before the National Assembly; it planned to harmonize all laws with the Convention and include a unique definition of disability in all laws – social protection, pension, employment and other sectors. 

Questions by the Committee Experts

In the second round of questions, Committee Experts asked whether the policy on disability which discriminated on the grounds of disability had been challenged in the Constitutional Court and if so, what were the outcomes.  The delegation was asked to describe how persons with disabilities could access the justice and judicial system, and whether judges were trained in the principles of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Another Expert noted that the disaster risk policy called for a priority evacuation of persons with disabilities with 70 per cent or more of disability and asked how the degree of disability could be estimated in time of disaster.  

Legal capacity could still be taken away from persons with disabilities through a judicial process, which was in violation of the Convention; what measures were being taken to ensure that the laws were harmonized with the Convention in this regard? Was there a roadmap to decrease the number of persons with disabilities without legal capacity and to replace it with supported decision-making?

On access to justice, the Expert noted that the report listed a number of organizations as providing legal assistance, including persons with disabilities.  The delegation was asked to provide examples of persons with disabilities whose rights had been violated and who had received legal assistance to obtain justice.

What was the situation of the deinstitutionalization process?  How many persons with disabilities had entered communal homes since 2014?

What was the situation of persons with disabilities who needed around-the-clock personal assistance, what kind of support, including financial, did they receive in this regard?  To which extent did medical insurance reimburse the cost of medical devices?

Turning to the issues of criminal justice, Experts asked about special measures adopted for the benefit of persons with disabilities, reasonable accommodation in prisons, and the number of persons with disabilities in detention. 

LASZLO GABOR LOVASZY, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Bosnia and Herzegovina, asked how many persons were affected by legal incapacitation.

Response by the Delegation

Responding to questions raised concerning access to justice for persons with disabilities, the delegation explained that there were several levels of courts in the country - state, entity and municipal courts, and that recently physical access was improved.  In accordance with the law, each person accessing the court had the right to translation, and this included sign language interpretation.  There were court-certified sign language interpreters, but consolidated data was not available.  As for access to the Office of the Ombudsmen, in Republika Srpska there were limitations due to the building in which the office was placed, as the upper floors were not accessible; thus, there were regular open office days where persons with disabilities could access the office on the ground floor.  This problem would be rectified once the lease on the building was finished.

Turning to the question on the removal of legal capacity of persons with disabilities in Brcko District, a delegate said that the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina guaranteed full equality for all persons, and the law on persons with mental problems regulated their treatment.  The first step in the deprivation of legal competence was the examination by a psychiatrist, and his or her recommendation which must be filed through the social protection institution.  The court was obliged to nominate a temporary guardian, while an assessment of the individual’s mental capacity was conducted by an independent expert.  The court would then take a decision, which could involve limiting or completely removing legal capacity.  A permanent guardian would be appointed to protect the rights and interests of the person deprived of his or her legal capacity.  In 2015, Brcko District had mediated 12 cases; the court had decided that legal competence should be completely removed for 11 such persons, and one person had partial suspension of legal capacity.

With regard to the deinstitutionalization process, it was explained that the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina had adopted a law on the right of ownership over social protection institutions in 2009.  The law aimed to regulate the uncertain situation of such institutions which had been founded by the Republic of Bosnia and Hercegovina.  There were three such institutions in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in which 1,200 persons with severe and moderate mental disabilities were held.  All those three institutions had started the deinstitutionalization process; in one of them, several patients had been moved into the community.  The process was ongoing with the support of civil society organizations which supported the deinstitutionalization of 22 persons with intellectual disabilities who were all living in independent housing in communities.  The deinstitutionalization process did not only depend on financial resources, but on the attitudes and acceptance of the process by local communities.  The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina had adopted a deinstitutionalization strategy, and since 2009 had invested 3.5 million BAM, about €1.75 million in improving disastrous conditions in institutions. 

The law on civil society organizations was liberal and it was easy and straightforward to set up one such organization.  There were hundreds of organizations of persons with disabilities registered at the moment, and many received support by the State to improve the situation of persons with disabilities. 

In terms of the support available for orthopaedic aids and other medical assistive devices in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the delegation noted that there existed discrimination on territorial principles as access to those aids varied from one canton to another depending on the financial situation of that particular canton.  In addition, some cantons provided access to medical assistive devices based on the origin of disability, with war-related disabilities having a priority.  There was a need to harmonize this throughout the Federation and ensure equal access to rights.

Further on access to justice for persons with disabilities, the delegation noted that persons with disabilities could access legal aid facilities, usually through civil society organizations specialized in this area.  It was through the use of legal aid that a person with disabilities had filed a complaint for disability-based discrimination with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.  The legal system in Bosnia and Herzegovina allowed for the participation of civil society organizations in all court cases involving discrimination, while the Ombudsmen institution acted as amicus curiae.

Questions by the Committee Experts

A Committee Expert inquired about access to television programmes and online information for persons with disabilities, including for deaf and hard of hearing persons, and for blind persons.  In terms of access to education, the delegation was asked about services available to families of children with disabilities, the number of teaching assistants available in cantons, and how many children with disabilities used their services.  Were there sign interpreters for students in universities, and what was the situation with physical accessibility for persons with disabilities to university buildings? 

Were there policies and budgets in place to support the purchase of technologies to increase access to information and communication and the involvement of persons with disabilities on social activities? 

Further on education and employment, the delegation was asked about the so-called “educational centres” for children with disabilities – did they keep students with disability in specialized education, or did they prepare them for inclusive education?  Were there schemes providing unemployment allowance to persons with disabilities? 

Was the Ombudsman officially appointed to serve as an independent monitoring mechanism for the implementation of the Convention?

Committee Experts asked about early detection and identification of disability, support available for continued rehabilitation of children with disabilities, support to persons with disabilities to ensure their full and equal participation in the society, and the integration of children with disabilities in the education system.  Why did Bosnia and Herzegovina use the term “integration” and not “inclusion”?  What system was in place to support independent living of persons with disabilities, particularly in the absence of decent employment?

What was being done to prevent the separation of children with disabilities from their families because of lack of specialist support provided to the families? 

What was the exact competence of the institution of the Ombudsmen in relation to the public and private sector?  Which proportion of children with disabilities were in pre-school and what was the policy with regard to inclusive pre-schooling for children with disabilities?  Did persons with disabilities have a secured minimum level of income, and was the income provided by the State sufficient to enable an unemployed person with disabilities to establish a family?

How many persons with disabilities had been deinstitutionalized since the ratification of the Convention?  What kind of services and support did they receive today?

Which concrete measures were being taken to make health services accessible to persons with disabilities, particularly women and girls with disabilities, in all health institutions?

How many persons with disabilities were employed in the public and private sectors; was training available for employment agencies and employers on the rights of persons with disabilities and non-discrimination?
 
LASZLO GABOR LOVASZY, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Bosnia and Herzegovina, asked about accessibility of information provided by public broadcasters and private media, as well as about incentives to increase accessibility.  What were the achievements of the 2015-2018 action plan for children and measures in place to prevent the institutionalization of children with disabilities, and what progress was being made in the implementation of inclusive education?

THERESIA DEGENER, Committee Chairperson, asked whether people under legal guardianship had the right to marry.

Response by the Delegation

Bosnia and Herzegovina had made progress in increasing access to information, however, more hours of television programmes were needed for persons with disabilities, as well as more channels with subtitles, explained a delegate.  Sign language interpretation was used only in the justice system, while Braille was rarely used.  Bosnia and Herzegovina was working on the websites of the State administration in order to make them accessible.  During voting, persons with disabilities could have a personal assistant to support the registration for the voting, as well as during the voting process. 

The institution of Ombudsmen monitored the implementation of all international human rights treaties that Bosnia and Herzegovina had ratified, including the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and also received complaints for discrimination and human rights violations, including by persons with disabilities.  The highest number of complaints had been submitted in 2010 when special benefits for persons with disabilities had been stopped.  The Ombudsman had prepared a special report on persons with disabilities several years ago, while the regular annual report always included a section of the rights of persons with disabilities.  Persons with disabilities were not well informed about their rights, thus there was a need for associations of persons with disabilities and the institution of Ombudsmen to raise awareness about the Convention, the rights, and protection and complaint mechanisms in place, including those set up by the anti-discrimination law.

In Republika Srpska, affirmative action for persons with disabilities included incentives for employment from the public fund for professional rehabilitation, as well as support for self-employment.  Public sector employers had an obligation to employ persons with disabilities.   In the Federation, the law was based on quotas, and every employer – private and public alike, had an obligation to employ one person with disabilities for every 16 employees, or face fines for non-compliance such as a 25 per cent increase in the contributions for each employee. 

Since the adoption of the law in 2009 in Republika Srpska, 51 companies had been established for the employment of persons with disabilities; as such, they received various incentives from the professional rehabilitation fund.

There were 200,000 persons with disabilities in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina; of those, only 6,500 persons with disabilities were registered as unemployed with the Employment Bureau.  It said much about the social policy in the Federation, and it was important to say that a person with disabilities, once employed, did not lose the benefits linked with the disability.  

A delegate confirmed that there was indeed discrimination based on the definition or status of disability, in the Federation and Republika Srpska alike, with war veterans receiving higher benefits than others.  This situation was probably due to the well-organized associations of veterans, which had pressured the Government after the war, and the Government at the same time had wanted to thank them.  Bosnia and Herzegovina was aware of the steps that would have to be taken in this regard, in order to ensure compliance with the Convention.  The Federation was taking steps in this regard, including the adoption of a unified approach to disability which would also see equal process of medical determination of disability.  Another crucial step would be the adoption of a law on equal rights of persons with disabilities which would make no differentiation on the basis of origin of disability; in this scenario, veterans and other persons with disabilities would be assessed equally and receive equal benefits, and veterans then could access a separate veteran supplement.

As far as children with disabilities were concerned, the situation was not uniform in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as each canton could make their own law and decide to pay both child supplement, as well as disability benefit for children.  In many of the cantons, there were no benefits paid out to children with disabilities.  There was a need to adopt federal legislation on the social protection of families with a disabled member, while increasing access for persons with disabilities to culture and sport was in the pipeline.  The law on foster families had been recently passed, and this was one way to avoid the institutionalization of children without parental care, of which 20 per cent were children with disabilities.

Bosnia and Herzegovina had developed the policy on early growth and development in 2012, which had been adopted by both entities, and which had seen the opening of centres for early growth and development throughout the country.  The centres aimed to help early detection of difficulties, and to support the parents; since then, several centres had closed as they were not sustainable. 

Concluding Remarks

SALIHA DJUDERIJA, Assistant Minister for Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in her concluding remarks thanked the Committee and reassured the Experts that their comments and conclusions would be a guideline for Bosnia and Herzegovina in the improvement of the situation of persons with disabilities.  The country faced many challenges which made it difficult to focus adequately on the rights of persons with disabilities. 

LASZLO GABOR LOVASZY, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that the Committee would adopt concluding observations for Bosnia and Herzegovina which would hopefully be executed by the Government with as many organizations of persons with disabilities as possible, particularly those active at the local level. 

THERESIA DEGENER, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the very rich and constructive dialogue in which many important issues had been discussed.

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