Although more than 20 years have passed since military conflicts in the Balkans ended, former Yugoslav countries have been slow to implement transitional justice mechanisms regarding human rights violations. In the past, stakeholders in the field of transitional justice in the Balkans were mainly focused on criminal justice, which had its foothold in the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ITCY, and its successor, the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals. On completion of the work of the tribunals, domestic courts were to take over the prosecution of war crimes suspects.
However, the number of such trials is declining, and new indictments remain focused on low-ranking perpetrators. Although the few existing trials are noteworthy, and BIRN is closely monitoring and reporting on them, it is important to focus on other segments of transitional justice and link it with criminal justice efforts. In this context, when regional cooperation among local judicial institutions remains key to advancing accountability and ending impunity, BIRN aims to increase the awareness of the key stakeholders and the public about these processes.
Aside from ongoing trials, court archives are a repository of testimonies and evidence presented at earlier trials, which should be used to create fact-based narratives about wartime past. Archives from the ICTY and local courts in all former Yugoslav republics make this conflict one of the best documented in history. Unfortunately, however, most of the archives are not easily accessible; a considerable amount of essential material does not see the light of day.
BIRN has already implemented two projects supported by the Matra Regional Rule of Law Program. The first, “Accountability and regional cooperation in prosecuting war crimes in former Yugoslavia”, focused on criminal justice efforts and regional cooperation among local prosecutors’ offices. The second, “Shaping and promoting war crime trial narratives in the Western Balkans”, aimed to promote and strengthen criminal justice and guarantees of non-recurrence through regular, in-depth, high standard reporting on war crime trials, but also to promote and disseminate the archives of the international and local courts.
This project is a follow-up to these previous actions, expanding the work on court archives and memorialisation processes but also providing interested individuals with the opportunity to research archives from different and often complementary perspectives. This way, overall reconciliation processes are being reinforced by broadening the scope of independent professionals interested in becoming active in securing guarantees of non-recurrence.
Matra Regional Rule of Law, The Netherlands
Overall objective – Strengthen transitional justice mechanisms in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia and Kosovo through enhanced usage of courts’ archives and professional reporting on war crimes.
Specific objective 1 – Reinforce the role of local artists, journalists, researchers and historians in becoming drivers of change in the overall reconciliation processes in the Balkan region.
Specific objective 2 – Improve intercultural dialogue and guarantees of non-recurrence through enhanced usage of court archives for the creation of multimedia fact-based content combating disinformation and denial caused by mainstream nationalistic narratives.
- Produce and publish online 1,500 daily reports and analyses of war crime trials’ monitoring and transitional justice processes at all levels of the judiciary. The most important ones will be translated into BCMS and Albanian.
- More than 3,000 republications in local, regional and international media outlets.
- Publish at least five data-driven multimedia investigations into war crime cases.
- Artists, journalists and historians to produce at least 10 small projects using international and local court archives.
- Upload up to 20 multimedia pieces (essays, articles, photographs, video materials and archaeological research papers) to the Mass Graves Database.
- Update Mass Grave Database with small-size mass graves locations
- Hold one regional conference with up to 100 participants.
- Hold one archive workshop for youth, mentor 10 young people to produce 20 oral history videos and hold five exchange programmes.
- Develop tool for journalists, researchers, historians to more easily search court archives.
Journalists, media, victims of war, researchers, historians, artists, academia