Nuhanovic Foundation Report on War Reparations and Litigation: The Case of Bosnia-Herzegovina, by Kate Clark

In April 2014 the Nuhanovic Foundation (NF) held a Round Table meeting at the University of Amsterdam, bringing together lawyers and activists from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Montenegro, with prominent scholars in the area of war reparations and representatives of international human rights organisations that are active in the region. The meeting was to establish whether and how litigation can be truly effective in securing reparations for civilian victims of the Bosnian war who are still without redress for the harm they suffered. This required a fully up to date review of the following:

(i) the intricacies of the complex legal systems of the State of Bosnia Herzegovina (BiH) and of its internal Entities, (ii) the  achievements in the area of reparations in BiH since the war, distinguishing between advances that have been made on paper (various strategies, programs and court decisions) and those that have actually been implemented, even if only partly, (iii) the activities of those currently pursuing reparatory justice by means of litigation, also considering those who may potentially do so in future, (iv) the particular obstacles that currently prevent civilians from obtaining reparatory measures that might or should be available to them.

The main conclusion of the Amsterdam meeting was that the outstanding problem is one of failure of implementation. Non-implementation has rendered numerous strategies, programmes, legal provisions and court decisions, that should significantly have advanced the cause of victims of the Bosnia war, largely or completely impotent.  A second pressing problem is that there has been no systematic registration of groups of civilian victims, their whereabouts and circumstances, and the activities of those who are trying to assist them in getting reparations. Without such registration, legal and political actors and victims’ organisations are handicapped when trying to represent the extent and urgency of the problems posed – for the whole society – by the failure to recognise and address the situation of civilian war victims. Proper recognition will entail urgent structural measures to address the conditions of individuals and groups of victims of war-related harm, including them fully in the overall effort towards restoring the normal functioning and relationships that characterise the life of a citizen of a State. This is the ultimate goal of the law of reparations.

The original English version can be read here. For the Bosnian translation click here.

NB In view of recent important developments in national and international jurisprudence on behalf of Bosnian war crimes victims, this report is currently being updated. The updated version will appear in January 2016.