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Alejandro Chehtman; Developing Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Capacity to Process War Crimes Cases: Critical Notes on a ‘Success Story’, Journal of International Criminal Justice, Vol. 9 (3)





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This article looks at the positive and negative influences exercised by international institutions and personnel on the capacity of domestic lawyers and courts in Bosnia and Herzegovina to process war crimes. It analyses the shortcomings in the training programs that were offered to local personnel and in the transfer mechanisms that resulted from the 1996 Rules of the Road Agreement and the ICTY’s completion strategy. It examines the relationship between the (State-level) Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the domestic courts of the separate entities that comprise the State. The author exposes the many difficulties that characterized the interface between international institutions, agendas and personnel and their domestic counterparts. From the point of view of domestic legal culture, structures and substantive as well as procedural criminal law, international influence was perceived as foreign, top-down and imposed from outside.

International or internationalized courts need domestic prosecutions if they are to have a meaningful impact domestically, and significant work is needed for domestic legal systems to be up to the task. The author concludes that the introduction of institutional mechanisms, which are admittedly foreign to the local legal culture, but at the same time show respect and deference to local professionals and practices, can be of the utmost importance. The phasing out of Internationals should be tied to achievement of goals rather than to a fixed end-date.

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