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Bosnia once again summoned by the UN to solve the crimes of its past

28.09.2020 ( Last modified: 29.09.2020 )

Late July 2020, the United Nations Human Rights Committee pronounced on a series of remarks made by TRIAL International with regards to the Concluding Observation on the third Universal Periodic Report on Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The UN body’s report agrees with the organization and urges BiH to report back.

Late July 2020, the United Nations Human Rights Committee pronounced on a series of remarks made by TRIAL International. @ UN Photo / Rick Bajornas

In April of this year, TRIAL International noted the shortcomings of the Bosnian authorities in the area of the prosecution of war crimes. The adoption of the Revised National War Crimes Prosecution Strategy, which calls for all cases to be solved by 2023 has been postponed many times. It has been adopted by the Council of Ministers on 24 September 2020, more than two years after it was submitted in May 2018. There is also a clear lack of committed resources, and delays in the effective implementation of free legal aid, even though it was adopted by Parliament in 2016.

“The authorities must get a grip on these cases, which are now 25 years old”, said Selma Korjenić, head of BiH program at TRIAL International. “It is all the more urgent since many witnesses and perpetrators of these crimes are dying, making prosecution impossible.”

The Committee examined two paragraphs of the Concluding Observations in depth after TRIAL International’s follow-up report: one devoted to enforced disappearances, and another to the prosecution of international crimes. In the latter, the Committee requests that BiH provide information on the adoption of the Revised National War Crimes Prosecution Strategy, and on the measures that the State has taken to support victims of war crimes, including survivors of sexual violence. It also requests that light be shed on the use of the statute of limitations (zastara) by some Courts, as well as on deterrent fees, and how these impact on victims.

With regard to investigations into unresolved cases of missing persons, the Committee agrees with the observations made by TRIAL International. Despite previous UN recommendations, the body in charge of the investigations lacks the necessary funds to implement its mandate, as foreseen in the Law on Missing Persons.

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