A round-table event titled “The prosecution of war crimes cases in prosecutors’ offices” was held on 11 April 2017 at Vlasic. The round table was organised by the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HJPC) within the project “Enhancing War Crime Case Processing in BiH – IPA 2013” funded by the European Union.
The project is a continuation of support for the prosecution of war crime cases in the context of the package Assistance IPA 2012/2013 within which the European Union has provided funding total of EUR 14.8 million.
The round table was opened by HJPC Vice President Ruzica Jukic, who stated that the HJPC and the entire judiciary are grateful to the European Union for its support to the BiH judiciary in implementing the measures and objectives envisaged by the National War Crimes Strategy and recommendations of the Structured Dialogue on Justice. Jukic emphasised that the aim of this support is to reduce the number of war crime cases in prosecutors’ offices by 50% over a period of five years.
Jukic further reflected on the importance of cooperation and mutual coordination between the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina and district/cantonal prosecutor’s offices and the Prosecutor’s Office of Brcko District of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the prosecution of war crime cases, as one of the key presumptions for the efficient prosecution of these cases.
Representative of the EU Special Representative in BiH/EU Delegation to BiH Drino Galicic pointed out that the European Union, through this and other projects and in cooperation with the ICTY and other international partners, will strongly support the judiciary in BiH in processing of war crime cases, and monitor the changes to the National War Crimes Strategy in BiH which are necessary to be made as soon as possible.
Application of the Protocols signed by the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the prosecutor’s offices of the Republic of Serbia, the Republic of Croatia and Montenegro on cooperation in the prosecution of perpetrators of war crime cases, crimes against humanity and genocide, as well as the application of the International legal assistance thereon and problems that can arise in practice between the countries, were the main topics of the Round table. Particular attention was paid to internal cooperation and coordination between the prosecutor’s offices within BiH.
Speakers at the round table were Gordana Tadic, Acting Chief Prosecutor of Prosecutor’s Office of BiH, Munib Halilovic, Prosecutor of Federal Prosecutor’s Office of FBiH, Zdenko Kovac, Chief Prosecutor of Cantonal Prosecutor’s Office of Herzegovina-Neretva Canton and Jasmin Mesic, Prosecutor of Cantonal Prosecutor’s Office of Una-Sana Canton.
The round table gathered chief prosecutors and prosecutors who are working on war crime cases and adopted the following conclusions:
1. European Union ensured necessary funding through the IPA 2012/2013 for the purpose of strengthening the human and material capacities of the prosecutors’ offices for the prosecution war crime cases, due to which prosecution of these cases in BiH was intensified
2. It concludes that it is necessary to approach the amendments of the National War Crimes Strategy, which will enable more intensive transfer of war crime cases to the entity prosecutors’ offices and the Prosecutor’s Office of the Brcko District.
3. Related to the application of Protocols signed by the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the prosecutor’s offices of the Republic of Serbia, the Republic of Croatia and Montenegro on cooperation in the prosecution of perpetrators of war crime cases, crimes against humanity and genocide, before providing the competent prosecutor’s office in the region with data and evidences in order to examine the possibility of undertaking criminal prosecution in the concrete case, it is necessary to prepare a sufficient number of evidences, or a number of evidences that the competent prosecutor’s office in the region in accordance with national legislation may accede to the preparation and drafting of the final prosecutorial decisions.
4. It is necessary that prosecutor’s offices in BiH should establish a good cooperation with prosecutor’s offices in the region with whom they share the same cases, and that after the transfer of the evidences, the case should be followed up by domestic prosecutors until the end of the proceedings.
5. Considering that for the transfer of the evidences, approval of the key witnesses/victims is necessary, an adequate cooperation with witnesses must be established in cooperation with the Witness support sections. Witnesses/victims must be provided with all relevant information related to the case, which will encourage them to give their approval for the transfer of evidences and further work on the case.
6. It concludes that it is necessary to organize a regional round table for prosecutors, with the aim of overcoming the problems in practice.
7. It concludes that certain problems with Republic of Croatia have arisen in the application of the institute of international legal assistance in cases of war crimes, due to which the prosecutors in BiH have been disabled for further processing in a number of these cases. In accordance to that, it is necessary to initiate resolving these problems through mutual cooperation of prosecutors’ offices in BiH with the prosecutor’s offices in the region and with the competent organs of the Executive power in BiH.
8. Application of a Video link for the purpose of hearing witnesses was welcomed and encouraged, which inter alia would help reducing costs of the testimonies, and improve efficiency and effectiveness in the prosecution of war crime cases.