International Justice/ICTY: May '09

IWPR round-table discussion on EU’s transitional justice efforts covered by leading media in the region.

International Justice/ICTY: May '09

IWPR round-table discussion on EU’s transitional justice efforts covered by leading media in the region.

Tuesday, 23 June, 2009
The European Union should play a greater role in fostering long-term peace, stability and reconciliation in the Western Balkans. That was the main conclusion of a round-table discussion on transitional justice which IWPR held in Sarajevo on May 19.

The event was held to launch IWPR's special report, EU Urged to Boost Balkan Reconciliation Efforts by Simon Jennings, published on May 15.

In the report, observers interviewed by Jennings said that while the EU had done much to bring justice to thousands of victims, the bloc was not doing enough to ensure lasting reconciliation and peace in the Balkans.

A discussion held at the Faculty of Criminal Justice Sciences in Sarajevo was part of IWPR's efforts to draw further attention to this important issue.

Representatives of the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Bosnia, HCHR, and the Research and Documentation Center, RDC, who took part in the round- table discussion in Sarajevo, emphasised the need for a shift in focus from retributive to restorative justice.

So far, the EU has focused its efforts mainly on its so-called Hague conditionality policy, which means that the progress of the countries of former Yugoslavia towards joining the union depends on their full cooperation with the Hague war crimes tribunal.

Although this strategy has been highly effective in terms of securing the delivery of indictees to the Hague tribunal for trial, it hasn’t contributed much to promote reconciliation or long-term stability in the region.

Participants concluded that apart from criminal prosecutions, more attention should be paid to other mechanisms of transitional justice, such as reparations, truth-finding, institutional reforms and vetting. All these mechanisms combined can help a post-conflict society face up to its past and turn to the future, they said.

They also spoke of transitional justice activities they are involved in.

Alma Dedic, from the UNDP's justice department, said that UNDP is currently holding consultations on transitional justice in local communities and that 14 focus groups have been included in these consultations – from religious communities to victims' associations, refugees, judicial institutions, social workers and members of the government, media, and academia.

She said special attention has to be paid to the victims of war, whether they were civilians or members of armed forces during the conflict.

Aleksandra Letic from the Bosnian branch of the HCHR, and Eldar Jahic from RDC, talked about local initiatives such as RECOM - a regional commission for establishing the facts about war crimes and other serious human rights violations in former Yugoslavia, launched a few years ago.

The initiative has brought together victims’ groups and other non-government organisations to discuss the Balkans conflicts in an effort to engage the region’s political leaderships in dialogue about facing the events of the past.

The launch of IWPR’s special report in Sarajevo received very good media coverage, and the report itself was republished in several important outlets in the region.

Oslobodjenje daily published two articles related to the round-table discussion in a week following the event, and on May 30 a shorter version of Jennings’s report was republished in the paper’s Sunday edition

Several radio stations in Bosnia, such as Radio Stari Grad and Federal Radio, aired reports on the conference, while in Serbia, the Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights and the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights posted this report on their websites.

At the end of May, Hague-based Jennings met a group of Serbian journalists and press officials at the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY, to discuss reporting of cases and international justice issues in mainstream Serbian media.

Participants discussed the difficulty of maintaining readers' interest in developments at the court while also reporting responsibly and in detail on legal cases and victims' issues.

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