(Sarajevo, 24 April 2019) – A one-day workshop – Processing War Crime Cases in the Courts, was organised yesterday in Mostar. The workshop was organised by the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HJPC BiH) within the Project – Building and Effective and Citizen-Friendly Judiciary, financed by the European Union through IPA 2017.
The workshop was attended by judges and prosecutors who process war crimes, who presented current trends in processing war crime cases. There was also discussion on managing procedures involving complex war crime cases as well as on protected witnesses in war crime cases.
Ružica Jukić, Vice-president of the HJPC BiH, underlined: “Together with the strong support of the European Union, the HJPC BiH is carrying out various activities on the implementation of measures provided for with the National War Crimes Strategy aimed at creating the preconditions so that these cases can be processed efficiently and with quality. The workshop serves as an opportunity for judges to meet, discuss and exchange experiences with a view to resolving any dilemmas and to pass conclusions on the harmonisation of court actions as well as for the quicker processing of war crime cases in BiH.” She also stressed that the workshop is part of the long-term cooperation between the European Union and the HJPC BiH, whereby the exchange of good practices and experiences between the courts and prosecutors offices leads to the improved processing of war crime cases in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Representative of the EU Special Representative in BiH/EU Delegation to BiH Drino Galicic pointed out in his address: "The latest European Commission's Enlargement Strategy for the Western Balkans from February 2018 identifies the progress in the area of reconciliation, good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation as crucial for the further accession process of these countries to the European Union. Consequently, processing war crime cases as part of the overall EU initiative to strengthen the rule of law and transitional justice is an area where urgent action is required from candidate and potential candidate countries for EU accession. The pace of processing war crime cases will be specially assessed in the process of drafting the Opinion on EU membership application of Bosnia and Herzegovina."
The following conclusions were adopted at the workshop:
- The competent institutions of the executive power of Bosnia and Herzegovina are urged to adopt, as soon as possible, a revised National Strategy for Processing of War Crimes Cases, which establishes a framework of systematic measures to improve the efficiency of prosecution of war crimes cases and the responsibility of the competent entities.
- Timely planning and assessment of resources in each judicial institution is necessary, based on accurate and verified information on the number of cases to be referred from the state level to other levels of the judiciary.
- It is proposed to the Supervisory Body for Monitoring the Implementation of the National Strategy for Processing of War Crimes Cases to mediate with the BiH Ministry of Justice in order to submit the proposal of amended criteria for the assessment of the complexity of war crimes cases from Annex A to the courts and prosecutors responsible for the prosecution of these cases, with the aim of familiarizing the judges and prosecutors with it as well as the adequate application of the criteria even before the adoption of the revised Strategy.
- It is suggested that the courts use the pre-trial hearing (status conference) as an efficient and cost-effective legal concept with the aim of speeding up the processing of war crimes cases.
- Different practice of the courts in dealing with witnesses under protection has been noted. Therefore, the importance of considering and possibly referring to the case law of the BiH Court in this regard is established.
- The Plea Agreement needs to contain all the foreseen elements, including an explicit provision on the claim for damages (particularly in cases of violations of international humanitarian law involving sexual abuse) and that the judgments are adequately reasoned.
For any additional information please contact the Cabinet of the HJPC BiH Presidency on 033 707 570.