Thousands protest over Bosnia baby ID row

Failure of MPs to agree new law on citizen ID numbers leaves newborns without access to medical care and passports.

    The protests were sparked by the case of a baby girl who could not fly to Germany for medical treatment [AFP]
    The protests were sparked by the case of a baby girl who could not fly to Germany for medical treatment [AFP]

    About 5,000 Bosnians have protested against a legal void which has left all babies born since February without identity numbers, meaning they cannot be issued passports or medical cards.

    Demonstrations entered a sixth day on Tuesday, with people from around the country filling the square in front of the parliament building in Sarajevo.

    The so-called baby revolution began on Thursday when about 1,000 parents staged a sit-in in front of government buildings in the capital, demanding a law on identification numbers for children.

    The following day, thousands of protesters, both parents and non-parents, formed a human ring around parliament, trapping inside 1,500 MPs, civil servants and others.

    In the pre-dawn hours of Friday, special forces formed their own human cordon, freeing those inside the building.

    Bosnians from the country's three main ethnicities - Serbs, Bosniaks and Croats - have joined the protests, which were sparked by the case of a three-month-old girl who could not be sent to Germany for medical treatment as her parents were unable to obtain a passport for her.

    Rare unity

    The anti-government demonstrations appear to be transcending ethnic boundaries and creating a sense of harmony rarely seen in a country where hatreds have endured since the end of a bloody war in the 1990s.

    Banners reading "We want changes" and "This is the beginning of your end," were visible among the protesters, many of whom were pushing prams.

    The newborns have fallen victim to an ongoing dispute between Muslim, Croat and Serb MPs of Bosnia's central parliament who for more than two years have been bickering over a draft law on the personal identification numbers.

    Bosnia's constitutional court ordered a halt to the registration of newborns until the dispute is settled.

    Bosniak and Croat legislators are rejecting the demand of their Serb colleagues, who want people from the Bosnian Serb part of the country to have different identification numbers than people in the rest of the country.

    They believe the Serb request is an attempt to further divide the country.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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