Bosnia passes ID law, ending row that cost a baby's life

Tue Nov 5, 2013 11:24am EST
 
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By Maja Zuvela

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Bosnian lawmakers passed a long-awaited law on identity documents on Tuesday, ending a dispute between ethnic groups that had cost the life of a baby in June.

The law bowed to the demands of Bosnia's autonomous Serb Republic in splitting ID registration districts along the territorial lines laid down with the end of the Balkan country's 1992-95 civil war.

Months of ethnic political bickering over how to issue the 13-digit identity number had united Bosnians in protest, and was the latest example of disputes that have stifled economic development since the war.

A baby girl died in June after her parents were denied travel documents for the child for surgery abroad. The ID number is used for everything from medical documents to passports.

The new law foresees nine registration districts - three in Bosnia's Serb Republic, five in the mainly Bosniak and Croat Federation and one for the neutral Brcko district.

The row emerged when a court suspended a law on the issuing of ID numbers because of a technical issue concerning the names of towns. It snowballed when Bosnian Serb parties pressed for a new system set along territorial lines, something Muslim Bosniak parties said would only deepen the country's division.

The law was adopted before the expiry in December of a six-month temporary measure passed under pressure from parents needing medical attention for their babies, that had allowed the registration of new citizens to resume.

"The newly-adopted law is just the reflection of the Bosnian reality," said Zoran Ivancic, an organizer of the protests over the summer.

"Nevertheless, it's of utmost importance that it has finally been adopted as there was a danger that babies born from December would be left unregistered," he told Reuters.

(Editing by Matt Robinson and Barry Moody)