War Crimes Justice Project strengthens national capacities to handle war crimes cases

Sarajevo, 27 October 2011. The successful conclusion of the 18-month War Crimes Justice Project (WCJP) to strengthen the capacity of national judiciaries in the region to handle war crimes cases was marked at an event in Sarajevo on 26 October 2011.

The WCJP is a four-million euro project funded by the European Union and carried out by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) in partnership with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) and OSCE field operations.

"This project was successful for two reasons - it provided the training and resources judiciaries really need to do their work in line with fair trial standards, and it targeted the full range of professional groups involved in war crimes trials, including judges, prosecutors, defence lawyers, investigators and witness support providers," said Ambassador Janez Lenarcic, the Director of ODIHR.

Judge Fausto Pocar of the ICTY stressed that the project has provided a unique opportunity for ICTY judges and legal staff to share experiences with their local counterparts: "This ensures that the lessons learned by the Tribunal are passed on effectively to current and future generations of legal professionals across the region."

Štefan Füle, the EU's Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, noted that the development of justice systems in the countries of the Western Balkans in accordance with accepted rule of law standards, and the ability of those systems to effectively address their war crimes case loads, are among the key objectives in the European integration process:

"By funding this major project, the European Union supports the war-affected states in the region in advancing in this process," he said.

"This ambitious project has considerably contributed to bridge the gap between The Hague and the former Yugoslavia, and this was done in full co-ordination with the local actors. I believe this is the primary factor which made this project successful", said Jonathan Lucas, the Director of UNICRI.

Through the project, which was supported by OSCE field operations in Belgrade, Podgorica, Pristina, Sarajevo, Skopje, and Zagreb, ODIHR and its partners have:

  • trained more than 800 legal professionals, including judges, prosecutors, defence attorneys and witness support providers on international humanitarian law and provided forums for the exchange of experiences with ICTY judges, prosecutors and victim support providers;
  • produced a new curriculum on International Criminal Law and Practice for local training institutions. The curriculum contains ICTY jurisprudence and the region's developing body of domestic war crimes jurisprudence;
  • provided 60,000 pages of ICTY trial transcripts in local languages, to enhance the ability of local judiciaries to access and use testimonies given before the Tribunal;
  • translated 200,000 words of the Appeals Chamber Case Law Research Tool into the regional language to allow court professionals to conduct legal research using the same legal digest tool as is used in the ICTY;
  • hired 30 young professionals as legal support staff in courts and other institutions dealing with war crimes cases, providing the recipient organizations with much needed extra capacity and enabling the young professionals to gain practical experience working on war crimes cases;
  • developed a Manual on International Criminal Defence comprising an overview of some of the most effective and innovative practices developed by defence counsel practicing before the ICTY; and
  • launched a training and e-learning portal providing an online platform for legal practitioners and judicial training institutions on issues related to war crimes.

For more information please call Ms. Alma Pintol, War Crimes Justice Project Officer at +351 93 99 82 685 or email at

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