TRIAL Report – Enforcement of damage compensation claims of victims of war crimes in criminal proceedings in Bosnia and Herzegovina – situation, challenges and perspectives.

This report by TRIAL presents a comprehensive analysis of how reparations claims by victims of war crimes are actually handled by Bosnian criminal courts. The goal of the analysis is to encourage legal experts, and primarily the judiciary, to consider the improvement of implementation of the existing legal framework, in order to better respect the rights and needs of victims of war crimes. The report takes account of all relevant Bosnian legislation, European directives and International legal instruments that assert the existence of the right to reparations.

The authors report a number of obstacles to a better functioning system. There is a simple lack of awareness among both victims and prosecutors about what exactly would be required for the successful processing of a compensation claim brought within a criminal trial. Yet in the absence of comprehensive legal aid, victims’ can seldom afford to initiate separate civil proceedings to pursue their claim. In addition when protected witnesses are instructed to initiate civil proceedings in order to enforce their property claims and obtain compensation, they will be required to disclose their identity in those proceedings, thus compromising their own protection and safety. The authors conclude however that these and other practical obstacles are not insurmountable and make several recommendations.

The importance of improving the existing system does not negate the pressing need to consider and develop ways to realize victims’ right to compensation through other legal remedies, including through collective administrative mechanisms that should ensure equal access to compensation throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina.