OSCE Helps Bosnia Speed Up War Crimes Cases

The OSCE and Bosnia’s top judicial authority have launched a joint project aimed at accelerate work on war crimes prosecutions by supporting support legal institutions.The project, which started on Monday and will continue for 15 months, is intended to help tackle the huge backlog of outstanding prosecutions in Bosnia’s two political entities, the Bosniak-Croat Federation and the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska.

“By transferring a large number of cases to entity prosecutor’s offices, it has become obvious that it is impossible to carry out efficient work on those cases with existing capacity of entity institutions. Thus it is crucial to provide assistance to these institutions as soon as possible,” the project’s leader Francesco Caruso told BIRN.

In accordance with Bosnia’s war crimes strategy, 200 cases were transferred to judicial institutions in the entities and the Brcko District last year, while around 600 cases remain at the state level.

The strategy envisages that the most sensitive state-level cases be finished by 2016 and the rest within 15 years.

The OSCE’s joint project with Bosnia’s High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council will finance specialised training for prosecutors, judges and lawyers in war crime cases at entity levels, employ experts in eight prosecutor’s offices in the Republika Srpska and Bosniak-Croat Federation cantons, and partly finance investigation expenses.

Caruso added that the project also plans to employ staff in the state court and prosecution’s office, as well as department of criminal defence, aimed at accelerating work on war crime cases.

The OSCE Mission in Bosnia will also finance the operational costs of the prosecutor’s offices through the project by paying for witnesses’ travel expenses or investigators’ trips to the field.

“Bosnia and Herzegovina made progress in reaching the goal of fair and efficient processing of war crime cases, including success in transferring numerous less complex cases from the state to lower levels,” said the director of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council’s secretariat, Admir Suljagic.

“However, lack of resources and capacities slowed down the processing of those cases. An infusion of resources in combination with targeted measures for increasing capacities would greatly help Bosnia and Herzegovina in reducing the number of unresolved cases,” he said.

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