The High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina implemented two EU-funded projects (IPA 2009 and IPA 2010) which have resulted in establishing the video-conference system in the BiH judiciary during 2013. This system enabled conducting of witness hearings from remote locations through the video link at the main trial. Initially, the video-conference system connected 28 institutions in the BiH judiciary. The implementation of the system allowed its future upgrades and expansion of the system by connecting additional institutions. During 2014, system was upgraded and expanded to include additional seven prosecutors’ offices through the support of the Swiss funded prosecutorial capacity building project. In early 2015, general technical preconditions for establishing the video link with judicial institutions abroad were fulfilled, which enabled conducting hearings of witnesses who reside outside BiH in cases processed by courts in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in accordance with international legal aid procedures.
Video-conference system enables several options in terms of its application in judicial proceedings:
Witness located in one city in BiH testifies at the main trial held before the court in a different city
In cases where the witness is not able to travel to the location of the trial court, their testimony at the main trial can be achieved through the video-link. This is possible if the trial court is connected to the video-conference system, as well as the court from whose premises the witness will provide their testimony. Judicial institutions in BiH connected to the judicial video-conference system are listed here. If the witness is not able to travel to the trial court, they need to express the interest in providing their testimony via the video-link as an alternative to their physical presence at the courtroom during the main trial. Based on witness’ request, the court will undertake actions necessary for assurance of the witness’ testimony via the video-link.
Protected witness’ testimony from a separate room in the courthouse or from another court
Video-conference system enables witness’ identity protection by audio and video signal scrambling resulting in distorted voice and unrecognisable appearance of the witness, thereby protecting their identity. In this type of testimony, the witness is located in a room physically separated from the courtroom at the courthouse, or from another court, depending on the type of required witness protection measures, condition of the witness and possibility of having the witness at the courthouse where the trial takes place.
Testimony of a witness residing abroad at the trial before one of the courts in BiH
Similar to testimony of witnesses from remote locations in BiH, witnesses residing abroad who are not capable to attend the main trial at one of the courts in BiH can provide their testimony from a judicial institution located in their city or country of residence via the video-link. Judiciaries in most European countries have their video-conference systems with the capability of connecting with the video-conference system in the BiH judiciary. In addition to existence of technical preconditions for providing the testimony via the video-link, the judiciary of BiH needs to establish the cooperation with the judicial system in the witness’ country of residence through mechanisms for provision of international legal aid.
Testimony of witnesses from BiH at trials before courts in other countries
Testimony of witnesses via the video-link represents a common practice and judicial institutions in the countries of the European Union often use this approach for providing testimony of witnesses who reside in BiH. Cooperation with judicial institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina and summoning of witnesses are carried out through mechanisms for international legal aid.