Victims Request State Strategy for Prosecuting War Crimes

Article posted on April 20, 2006

Associations of victims from all over Bosnia and Herzegovina and representatives of state judicial bodies are united in their call for the development of a strategy for Bosnia and Herzegovina in prosecuting war crimes. This is just one of the conclusions of a two-day gathering organized by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP). Round-table discussions under the title: „Pursuing justice and human rights in BiH: Mechanisms and problems” were held with 60 representatives of associations of families of missing persons and guest speakers from various judicial institutions.Associations of victims were introduced to the mandates, structures and work of various legal BiH institutions engaged in the issue of war crimes and violations of human rights. However, both, the victims and representatives of judicial bodies recognized huge deficiencies in the system of processing war crimes which affects the protection of witnesses.

Marinko Jurcevic, BiH Chief Prosecutor invited all victims’ associations to assist the courts in obtaining quality testimonies of witnesses to war crimes and other violations of human rights, and to increase pressure on the authorities to mobilize all relevant structures in BiH as well as neighboring countries to resolve this problem. “I believe that we should create a state strategy”, says Jurčević and adds “this is our only homeland, in which we must create ambience in order to live together”.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) representing the victims supported the BiH Chief Prosecutor’s initiative to create a strategy for accelerating the process of processing war crimes. They believe that this initiative should include the creation of optimum conditions for the work of courts, prosecution and police, and the establishment of war crime units from local to state levels. NGOs will put constant pressure for this strategy to be adopted “because we do not have anymore time for experiments and the process should be limited by an optimum deadline”, says Slavko Jovičić from the Union of former detainees of Republika Srpska.

NGOs request better witness protection by judicial bodies at all levels where war crime processing takes place. Murat Tahirović from the BiH Union of former detainees stressed the need for adequate protection to include witness preparation, protection from maltreatment as well as adequate legal and psychological support.

The participants stressed the significance of courts receiving useful information, testimonies and evidence on what had happened to missing persons, and the whereabouts of their remains. The return of dignity to victims, including exhumations and identifications of missing persons, is not only important to their families. Society as a whole should be confronted with the truth in pursuit of justice. Participants sought from the BiH Council of Ministers that it ensures the pre-requisites for the MPI in BiH to begin its work as soon as possible, and to implement consistently the Law on missing persons in BiH, as adopted in November 2004.

Associations of victims were united in the conferences conclusions regardless of their ethnicity. “I hope one day the truth will be reached and all war criminals would be prosecuted, so we can advocate the prosperity of the state”, says Ahmet Grahić from the BiH Union of Bosniak Family Associations of detained and missing persons.