Bosnians mourn baby who died for lack of ID number

Mon Jun 17, 2013 12:50am EDT
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By Maja Zuvela

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Thousands of Bosnians gathered in front of parliament on Sunday evening to mourn a three-month-old baby who died after failing to get timely surgery because a parliamentary wrangle prevented her getting a passport.

Berina Hamidovic was the first victim of politicking over identity numbers, which has united Bosnians in protests against the institutional paralysis that has blocked post-conflict reforms and the country's path towards the European Union.

The somber gathering followed days of protests in Sarajevo and other towns over lawmakers' failure to agree new legislation on citizens' identity numbers. The row has left babies born since February unregistered, and therefore denied passports or medical cards.

The protesters this time did not carry banners or posters, but encircled parliament with a ring of candles placed on the ground, and stood or walked in silence.

The baby's parents said the time they had wasted persuading Serbian border police to let her in without a passport to go to a hospital in Belgrade for surgery had cost her her chance of life.

The baby was diagnosed with tracheoesophageal fistula - a hole between her gullet and windpipe - and had already had an unsuccessful operation in Sarajevo.

"We practically had to take the child across the border illegally, although she was legally allowed to travel for urgent health reasons," the baby's father Emir Hamidovic said.

When the baby was finally admitted to hospital in Belgrade, Bosnian authorities refused to pay for the surgery. Though the Serbian doctors agreed to carry out the procedure, the baby contracted an infection and died.   Continued...