For the past 17 years, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has been the primary body responsible for trying serious violations of international humanitarian law committed during the armed conflicts in the region of the former Yugoslavia since 1991. It is no longer opening new cases, however, and it is expected to finish its current proceedings by the end of 2014.
Under the War Crimes Justice Project, the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the ICTY and the UN's Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), with the funding of the European Union, partnered up to ensure the effective transfer of know-how and materials from the ICTY to the national judicial systems in the countries where the crimes took place.
Since its establishment, the ICTY has played a pioneering role in the development of international criminal justice. The Tribunal possesses unique institutional knowledge and specialized skills, and has generated a massive amount of evidence and legal documentation concerning the atrocities committed in the region.
The ICTY was never intended to be able to prosecute all those alleged to have committed atrocities during the conflicts and, since 2003, has been implementing its completion strategy. Part of that strategy involves the transfer of low- and mid-level perpetrators indicted by the ICTY, as well as case files, back to the countries in the region and a commitment to assist institutions in national jurisdictions in the conduct of those proceedings.
Legal institutions in these jurisdictions have not only been trying the cases transferred by the ICTY but have also been conducting their own investigations and prosecutions of many alleged perpetrators not indicted by the ICTY. Consequently, as the ICTY completes its work, these courts are anticipated to intensify theirs.
The purpose of the War Crimes Justice Project was to assist national authorities in strengthening capacity in their jurisdictions to handle war-crimes trials in an effective and fair manner, consistent with the highest international standards of due process. The project also aimed to ensure that national judiciaries have access to ICTY materials in a form that will enable them to conduct their proceedings long after the Tribunal has completed its work.
The project was preceded by a nine-month needs assessment process conducted in close consultation with legal practitioners in the region, which culminated in the publication in September 2009 of a final report that identified the areas where national legal systems could use assistance in dealing with an increasing number of war-crimes cases.
The components of the War Crimes Justice Project were designed to meet the identified outstanding needs. Furthermore, assistance was delivered in a manner identified by the national authorities as most conducive to them in order to support national ownership and to provide sustainable benefits.
PROJECT FOCUS AREAS
Bolstering staffing capacity in key areas
The hiring of a limited number of additional support staff at domestic judicial institutions was sponsored to bolster capacity in key areas such as analysis and witness support. This was identified by institutions within the national jurisdictions as a fundamental need for dealing effectively with complex war-crimes cases.
Developing curricula and materials
The War Crimes Justice Project co-operated with several judicial-training institutions to develop curricula on international humanitarian law and various research and analysis tools. Corresponding training materials were also developed. A training-of-trainers approach was utilized as much as possible. A manual incorporating the most effective practices used by defence counsel before the ICTY was produced to benefit defence lawyers in the region.
The project included a range of activities, such as peer-to-peer meetings and working visits, designed to facilitate the professional development of the legal professionals working on war-crimes cases in the region. Training was also provided on the use of analytical tools and working with vulnerable witnesses. Advanced training was provided on specific topics of international humanitarian law.
Access to the ICTY's materials and expertise
The ICTY now produces transcripts of its key proceedings in Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian. This drastically improved the ability of legal practitioners in the region to access and search through testimony given before the ICTY for the purpose of their domestic proceedings. The Tribunal's Appeals Chamber Case Law Research Tool, which contains a compilation of the most important Appeals Chamber decisions, was also translated into Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian. Specially tailored training will be provided to lawyers in the region in order to assist them in accessing the Tribunal's records.