Annual Report: Bosnia And Herzegovina 2011

Report
May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Bosnia And Herzegovina 2011

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Head of state: rotating presidency - Željko Komšić, Nebojša Radmanović, Bakir Izetbegović (replaced Haris Silajdzic in November)
Head of government: Nikola Špirić
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 3.8 million
Life expectancy: 75.5 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 17/12 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 97.6 per cent

Nationalistic rhetoric was widespread. Prosecution of war crimes cases continued, but progress remained slow. Civilian victims of war continued to be denied access to justice and reparations.

Background

In the run-up to the October general elections, relations between the main ethnic groups - Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks), Croats and Serbs - continued to be marked by nationalistic rhetoric. Continuous calls for separation by several high-level politicians in the Serb entity of Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) threatened the stability of the country. On some occasions Croat politicians also proposed the creation of a Croat-dominated entity within BiH.

In July, just before the 15th anniversary of the genocide at Srebrenica in 1995, several high-level politicians of Republika Srpska made statements glorifying the perpetrators of this crime and other people accused of being responsible for it, including Radovan Karadžić. Some of them denied the fact that genocide had taken place in Srebrenica.

The main ethnic parties representing Serbs and Bosniaks - the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) and the Party of Democratic Action respectively - secured most seats in the decision-making institutions of the country. However, the elections also introduced a non-ethnic political party - the Social Democratic Party (SDP) which gained the majority of seats in the Federation of BiH (the predominantly Bosnian Muslim and Croat entity).

The international community continued to maintain its presence in BiH, and Valentin Inzko continued to serve as the High Representative - head of the civilian peace implementation agency created by the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement. The High Representative also acted as the EU Special Representative.

The EU maintained its peacekeeping force with approximately 1,600 troops as well as a police mission with just under 300 staff.

The accession negotiations with the EU continued. As part of the process, in December the country entered into a visa liberalization agreement which allowed citizens of BiH to travel freely in the 25 countries within the Schengen area of Europe.

In January, BiH started to serve its two-year term as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Justice system - crimes under international law

Prosecution of crimes under international law continued before the domestic judiciary in BiH, at a slow pace.

The War Crimes Chamber (WCC) of the State Court continued to play the central role in war crimes prosecutions in BiH. At the end of September, 50 war crimes trials were pending before the WCC. A further 20 cases were on trial in the Federation of BiH and 13 in the Republika Srpska. The Brcko District had four pending cases. Prosecution of rape and other war crimes of sexual violence continued to receive little attention. Fewer than 20 such cases had been prosecuted in total by the WCC since its creation in 2005.

However, it was estimated that there was a backlog of up to 10,000 untried war crimes cases. The implementation of the State Strategy for the Work on War Crimes, which was adopted in 2008 in order to address the issue, was delayed.

Witness support and protection measures in BiH remained inadequate, and continued to be one of the main obstacles for victims of war crimes and their families in seeking justice.

Despite some efforts, the authorities failed to grant access to reparation for many victims of war crimes, including survivors of sexual violence, families of those forcibly disappeared and victims of torture.

Verbal attacks on the justice system and denial of war crimes - including of the genocide in Srebrenica in July 1995 - by high-ranking politicians further undermined the country's efforts to prosecute war crimes cases.