25 March, 2020
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Restriction of movement in Bosnia and Herzegovina – two Entities with a common foe

Many states – if not all – have deemed it necessary to restrict citizens’ rights during the COVID-19 pandemic just to stay afloat. Typically, states opt to limit freedom of movement by placing certain categories of people under what effectively amounts to house arrest and imposing mandatory curfews on the rest, irrespective of age. In that regard, Bosnia and Herzegovina (“BH”) is no exception.

While the Council of Ministers of BH declared a “state of natural or other disaster” in recognition of the danger posed by COVID-19, measures that would hopefully slow the advance of the virus were announced by authorities in two Constituent Entities – Republic of Srpska (“RS”) and Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (“FBH”).

 

RS restrictions

On March 16, 2020 the Government of the RS declared an emergency situation due to COVID-19. Although the decision itself did not detail the steps to slow the outbreak in the Republic of Srpska, it did reference the statutory remit of the Government’s Emergency Situations Office (“ESO”) which was tasked with heading up the response.

The ESO hit the ground running. On March 21, 2020 it issued the Movement Restriction and Prohibition Order (“Order”), prohibiting senior citizens aged 65 and over from leaving their homes at any time of the day. In addition, the Order imposes a curfew on all citizens, irrespective of age, banning all movement in public spaces between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m.

The Order contains certain exceptions. Healthcare workers, officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and other law enforcement agents are exempt from the curfew while on duty. Persons holding a special permit from the Ministry of Internal Affairs or a certificate from their employer stating that their work is essential may move around during curfew hours. Finally, persons seeking urgent medical care may leave their homes during curfew hours.

However, having in mind the quickly escalating health situation, RS took further steps in order to protect its citizens from COVID-19.

On March 28, 2020 its National Assembly adopted the Decision on declaration of the state of emergency (“Decision”). Although the Decision did not itself provide for any new measures, it effectively suspended the National Assembly which gives the RS President broader authorization to enact decrees with force of statutes.

The Decision came into force on April 3, 2020.

 

FBH restrictions

On March 16, 2020 the Government of the FBH adopted the Decision declaring of state of disaster due to COVID-19 (“Order”). The Order tasks the Federal Civil Defense Office (“FCDO”) with leading the response effort throughout the Federation.

The FCDO announced the first set of measures on March 20, 2020, completely restricting the freedom of movement of certain categories of people, based on their age. In fact, the stay-at-home order extends to all minors and citizens aged 65 and over. There are no exceptions to the rule, with measures to apply until March 31, 2020, but are likely to be extended.

In addition to these ironclad restrictions, an FCDO-imposed a blanket curfew has been in effect since March 21, 2020. The curfew is in place daily between 6 p.m. and 5 a.m. with only frontline public health responders (e.g. medical personnel, police officers and other security services), as well as nightshift workers exempt from the curfew.

 

For more information, please contact us via covid19@geciclaw.com