Bosnia and Herzegovina: beards and police officers

The legal adviser to the appellant, Emir Kovačević, has provided this guest post on an interesting case on the right of public-sector workers to manifest their religion while in uniform.

The Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in its decision No. U 8/17 of 30 November 2017, approved the appeal of Mr Safet Softić, deputy chairman of the House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina against part of the uniform regulations for the Border Police.

Article 1, paragraph 1, item 7 of the amendment of the Rulebook on wearing uniforms dated 30 January 2017, issued by the Director of the Border Police of Bosnia and Herzegovina, reads in part: “Police officers when in uniform must be clean-shaven”. The Court concluded that those words were not in accordance with Article II/3.f) of the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina or with Articles 8 (respect for private and family life) and 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) of the ECHR.

Pursuant to Article 61, paragraph (2) of the Rules of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Court annulled the contested provision. It concluded that the absolute ban on police officers working in the Border Police of BiH wearing beards while they are in uniform: (i) violated the right to private life and the right to freedom of religion guaranteed by Article II (3) (f) of the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina and (ii)  breached Articles 8 and 9 ECHR because the disputed measure did not follow the general objectives laid down in paragraph 2 of Articles 8 and 9.

The annulled Article 1, paragraph 1, item 7 will not be valid on the day after the publication of this Decision in the Official Gazette of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Emir Kovačević

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