Bosnia and Herzegovina is recovering from a devastating three-year war which accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. The 1992-1995 conflict centred on whether Bosnia should stay in the Yugoslav federation or become independent.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is now an independent state, but under international administration. Its three main ethnic groups are Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims), Croats, and Serbs. The war left Bosnia's infrastructure and economy in tatters. Around two million people -- about half the population -- were displaced.
International administration, backed at first by NATO forces and later by a smaller European Union-led peacekeeping force, has helped the country consolidate stability. But early in 2007 the International Crisis Group warned: "Bosnia remains unready for unguided ownership of its own future -- ethnic nationalism remains too strong."
The 1995 Dayton peace accord, which ended the Bosnian war, set up two separate entities: a Bosniak-Croat Federation of Bosnia and Hercegovina, and the Bosnian Serb Republic (Republika Srpska), each with its own president, government, parliament, police and other bodies. Overarching these entities is a central Bosnian government and rotating presidency. In addition, the district of Brcko is a self-governing administrative unit, established as a neutral area placed under joint Serb, Croat and Bosniak authority.
The Dayton agreement also established the Office of the High Representative. The Office's representative is the state's ultimate authority, responsible for implementation of Dayton and with the power to "compel the entity governments to comply with the terms of the peace agreement and the state constitution." Negotiations to amend the existing constitution, established by Dayton, in order to centralise functions and transform the country into a non-ethnic parliamentary democracy, are ongoing.
Underlining how far the country had progressed since Dayton, EU foreign ministers gave the go-ahead in late 2005 for talks on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement, the start of Bosnia's long journey towards possible European Union membership. The prospect of talks with the EU was a factor likely to increase pressure for the capture of two key Bosnian Serb war crimes suspects, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. After nearly 13 years on the run, Radovan Karadzic was arrested in July 2008 by Serbian security forces in Belgrade. On 30 July 2008, he was handed over to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. He had been indicted for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. His trial began on 26 October 2010.
In June 2009, Bosnian television broadcast images of Ratko Mladic, some of which, it was claimed, had been filmed within the past 12 months. Mladic has also been indicted for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, including for the extermination of several thousand Bosnian Muslims after the fall of Srebrenica. He remains at large.
This overview is adapted from the BBC online country profile of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Last updated: 16 August 2010