Bosnia rights ruling final and binding

SARAJEVO, Jul 5, 2000 -- (Reuters) Bosnia's Constitutional Court said on Tuesday its ruling ordering the country's two autonomous regions to grant equal rights to Bosnian Serbs, Moslems and Croats should be considered final and binding.

The court's president Kasim Begic dismissed reports by some local media and legal experts that the regions' parliaments still needed to approve the ruling before they harmonized their constitutions in accordance with the state constitution.

"These unconstitutional articles of the entities' constitutions will be annulled on the day when the ruling has been published (in the official gazette)," he said.

Post-war Bosnia is made up of the Moslem-Croat federation and the Serb republic, each having its own parliament, government, army and police.

According to the regions' respective constitutions, Moslems and Croats are regarded as constituent nations in the federation, and Serbs as the only constituent ethnic group in the Serb republic.

The constitutions granted privileged status to some ethnic groups and turned others into national minorities, Begic said.

However, the state constitution recognized Moslems, Serbs and Croats as constituent nations and there was no legal ground for the regions to change their status to a national minority based on territorial division, he said.

Bosnia's Moslem leader Alija Izetbegovic on Monday welcomed the court's ruling, saying it was the most important decision since the signing of the Dayton peace agreement that ended Bosnia's 1992-95 war.

But Bosnian Serb officials have criticized the ruling, saying it will endanger the autonomy of the Serb republic.

The court made the long-delayed decision at the weekend, with three of its international judges and two Moslem ones voting for it, and two Serb and two Croat judges voting against it.

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