Fausto Pocar: ‘Don’t Underestimate Bosnia’s Courts’

3. November 2011.00:00
Former Hague Tribunal president says judiciary in the country works better than people think, and is up to the task of handling even the gravest war crime cases.

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Fausto Pocar, judge of the Hague Tribunal, considers Bosnia’s courts get a bad rap: the judiciary works better than the people thinks, makes good judgments and delivers quality verdicts, he says.

The former President of The Hague Tribunal, who still cooperates with judicial institutions in the region, passing on his experience, argues that courts in Bosnia and Herzegovina are equipped to deal with the most serious war crimes cases.

In an interview for BIRN Justice Report, Pocar said that in the past 18 months he has been working on a project called “Justice and War Crimes” whose aim is to share the experiences and practices of the Hague Tribunal with courts in the region.

“Any justice [system] would have a problem with prosecuting cases of this size and complexity, but the impression I… have is that the local judiciary is much better than people outside the region think, so I would say it’s a good judiciary, which does proper reasoning and makes good decisions,” Pocar said.

The “Justice and War Crimes” project has been funded by the European Union, while implementation is left to the OSCE in partnership with the Hague Tribunal [The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY] and the UN Interregional Institute for Crime and Justice Research, UNICRI.

According to Pocar, the project has enabled courts in the region to draw on the lessons learned in the Hague Tribunal, enhancing regional cooperation.

“Regional cooperation already works to some extent. It is clear, however, that regional cooperation needs to be improved,” he said.

“It should have been improved few years ago, when the whole project started,” Pocar added, emphasizing that the project has brought significant improvements to cooperation between local judicial institutions.

Pocar said the importance of the “Justice and War Crimes” project is also reflected in the fact that in future it will help ensure use of the Hague Tribunal’s most important legacy, its archive, following closure of the Tribunal, which is planned for 2014.

“It is it essential to provide for access to any document or proceedings conducted before the Hague Tribunal,” he said. “This approach should be open. Basically, it is important that most of the stuff is easily available.

“Currently access is only possible through the computer, but in my view it is not enough. What is crucial is that we have a place where people can go and, with the help of experts, access the documents of the Tribunal.”

Pocar believes that Bosnia and Herzegovina should be one of the places where the archive of the Hague Tribunal is located.

“It is a priority that there are one or more places in Bosnia and Herzegovina for the location of the Hague archive. The more the better,” he said.

“It is not always easy for everyone to travel throughout the state. For example, a centre in Sarajevo will be welcome there, but there are other places where crimes were committed and it would be good if people there [also] had access,” the ICTY judge added.

Pocar was the ICTY’s President from 2005 to 2008, and says he set himself the task of bringing the work of the Tribunal closer to people in the region.

“I wanted to do something for the people because the Tribunal is not only here to send someone to prison but to be an instrument of reconciliation and rebuild a society torn by war,” Pocar said.

According to Pocar, his desire to bring the ICTY closer to the people of the former Yugoslavia led him to initiate cooperation with judges in the region.

“I started to talk with local judges to work together because we are essentially doing the same job, and the time has come for them to take a larger role. I wanted us to become partners and move forward in the same direction,” Pocar added.

The Italian professor of law joined the ICTY in February 2000. Three years later he was elected Vice President before becoming President in 2005.

Pocar was a member of the Judicial Council in the first case that dealt with rape a

This post is also available in: Bosnian