International Judicial Monitor
Published by the American Society of International Law and the International Judicial Academy
Jul/Aug 2007, Volume 2, Issue 2

International Tribunal Spotlight:
War Crimes Chamber, Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina

State Court of Bosnia HerzegovinaIntroduction

The War Crimes Chamber of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina was established in March 2005 to investigate and prosecute the most serious of war crimes committed on Bosnian territory in accordance with international law and norms of criminal procedure.††

As a part of the Bosnian State Court, the Chamber is technically a domestic institution. However, it was established and continues to function with the support and participation of the international community in the form of funding, resources, and personnel including judges.

The international character of the Chamber is expected to decrease over time and as the institution matures and the rule of law continues to develop in the post-conflict country.††††

For the time being though, it pursues justice in partnership with the international community, principally the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).†††

The transfer of cases and investigation files from the ICTY to the Chamber, pursuant to Rule 11bis of the Tribunalís Rules of Procedure is actually an important component of the ICTY Completion Strategy. This transfer process is regulated domestically by a Bosnian law on transfer of cases and use of ICTY collected evidence, one of the many legislative pieces enacted to facilitate the work of the Chamber and domestic war crimes prosecutions.†† †

Similar domestic war crimes tribunals have been established in neighboring Croatia and Serbia, also with the support of the international community and with the ICTY completion strategy in mind.

To date, the ICTY Referral Bench has referred a total of 8 cases involving 13 persons to domestic courts in the region. Most of these cases have been referred to the Bosnian War Crimes Chamber.††††

All cases referred to domestic courts, including the War Crimes Chamber, are monitored for compliance with international due process standards by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Structure and Composition

The War Crimes Chamber is one of three special chambers which constitute the Courtís Criminal Division. In addition to the War Crimes Chamber, which is designated as Chamber I, the Criminal Division also includes the Organized Crime, Economic Crime, and Corruption Chamber (Chamber II) and the General Criminal Offenses Chamber (Chamber III).

The War Crimes Chamber presently consists of five panels with two international judges and one national judge, sitting on each individual panel. The national judge serves as the presiding judge.†

The Courtís Appellate Division is made up of three chambers as well, including one chamber dedicated to hearing appeals against judgments from the first instance war crimes chamber. The appellate war crimes chamber is composed of one panel with two international judges and one national judge, with the national judge serving as the panelís president.†

At the present time, a total of 47 judges serve on the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Fifteen of these judges are international judges and hail from countries such as Belgium, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, United Kingdom, United States, and also several Scandinavian countries ††

National judges including the Courtís President are appointed for life terms by the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC) of Bosnia and Herzegovina. †International judges are appointed to the War Crimes Chamber for two year renewable terms by the international communityís High Representative in Bosnia based on the recommendation of the Courtís President and the HJPC President.

Once appointed, national and international judges are assigned to specific Divisions and Chambers, including to the War Crimes Chamber, by the Courtís President.

The War Crimes Chambers within the Criminal Division and the Appellate Division are served by a separate Registry. Each Registry is divided into the following sections: Legal/Judicial Support, Court Management, Witness Support, Public Information and Outreach, and Administration. Registry support is presently coordinated by an internationally appointed Registrar who works in cooperation with the Court President.† The War Crimes Chamber shares these services with the organized crime chamber.

The Registry is also responsible for administering the recruitment and appointment process of international judges.† ††

Jurisdiction †

The War Crimes Chamber exercises criminal jurisdiction over acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and violations of the laws of war, and individual criminal responsibility for these acts as defined in the Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina.† Cases are heard on the request of any court of Bosniaís two entities or the Brcko District. The Chamber may also initiate proceedings on its own.†

The Chamber may also hear matters involving international and inter-Entity law enforcement such as extradition, surrender, and transfer of persons requested by Bosnian authorities, authorities of foreign States, or international courts and tribunals.† †

In exercising its jurisdiction and rendering decisions, the War Crimes Chamber draws upon the jurisprudence and the practice and experience of the ICTY.†

Funding/Court Budget

Funding for the Court and its War Crimes Chamber comes from the state budget of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the international donor community. The Court proposes an annual budget to the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council that covers salaries of national judges and court staff, operational costs and maintenance of the courthouse, equipment, and other administrative costs such as travel expenses. Specific budget requirements for the War Crimes Chamber are identified within the Courtís overall budget.

The proposed budget is communicated by the Ministry of Finance and Treasury to the Bosnian Parliament for adoption into law. For 2006, the Parliament allocated a total of 5.3 million Bosnian convertible marks (KM), or roughly EUR 2.6 million for the Court.†

Salaries for international judges, prosecutors, and other personnel are funded directly by international donors and managed separately from the Court budget. In 2006, international bilateral and multilateral donors supported the work of the Court and the War Crimes Chamber with financial resources and in kind contributions in the amount of approximately EUR 20 million. †††

For More Information

Law on the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Rules of Procedure of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY)

UN Principles of International Cooperation in the Detection, Arrest, Extradition, and Punishment of Persons Guilty of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity

Andrew Solomon, ASIL Director of Programs

« Back to the first page

ASIl & International Judicial AcademyInternational Judicial Monitor
© 2007 – The American Society of International Law and International Judicial Academy.

Editors: James G. Apple, Veronica Onorevole and Andrew Solomon.
IJM welcomes comments, suggestions, and submissions.
Please contact the IJM editors at