Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Case Studies

Vetting judges, police and prosecutors in Bosnia and Herzegovina


Vetting to ensure minimum standards of integrity in public service is widely recognised as an important SSR measure. Between 1999 and 2002, the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH) vetted all law enforcement personnel in the country. Of the total of 23 751 personnel registered, 16 803 were provisionally authorised to exercise police powers (those not authorised were mainly administrative support personnel working at local ministries of the interior); of those, 15 786 were certified as police officers. Three High Judicial and Prosecutorial Councils (HJPC), made up of international and national personnel, restructured the court system and reappointed all judges and prosecutors between 2002 and 2004. Almost 1 000 posts were declared vacant and there was open competition to fill them.

Entry point

The Dayton Agreement stipulated that police offi cers and civil servants responsible for serious violations of minority rights should face “prosecution, dismissal or transfer”. The presence of the UN Mission facilitated the process of vetting.

Lessons learned

Review or reappointment? UNMIBH applied a review model to vet the police: serving police officers were screened to determine their suitability for continued service. Shortcomings in this process were caused by a failure to ensure basic standards of due process. The HJPC, on the other hand, applied a reappointment model to vet judges and prosecutors: all posts were declared vacant and serving judges and prosecutors also had to apply. Applicants in the reappointment process had no right to a hearing or to judicial appeal if they were not selected and the burden of proof was shifted onto them. These procedural simplifications streamline a vetting process significantly and provide a better opportunity for broader SSR measures. A reappointment process, however, represents a risk of arbitrary interference in otherwise independently operating sectors. It should therefore only be established when the institution is fundamentally dysfunctional; it should be implemented by an independent body that follows fair procedures; and it should be put in place as early as possible to avoid protracted periods of legal uncertainty.

Linking vetting to other reforms — Both the UNMIBH and HJPC processes pursued broader SSR goals. In particular, both led to a reduction in the overall personnel size and an increased representation of minorities. Vetting will normally have to be accompanied by other SSR measures to ensure an effective reform process.

The role of international organisations — Vetting processes under domestic leadership preclude resentment against external imposition and ensure the application of local know-how. Vetting processes are, however, often contested as they affect access to power, and considerable international involvement might be required. When an internationalised process is established, every effort should be made to broadly involve domestic actors and to guarantee a seamless changeover to regular domestic procedures. In this regard, the shortcomings of the UNMIBH process were significant. The HJPC process, on the other hand, was integrated into the domestic legal system and ensured a smooth transfer to a domestic follow-on mechanism.


The UNMIBH police review process resulted in the removal of personnel who did not meet established criteria, a reduction in overall personnel numbers, and an improvement in the ethnic and gender composition of the police. The HJPC reappointment process resulted in the closure of several courts, about 30% of the incumbent applicants not being reappointed, and the pre-war ethnic balance being largely restored. At the completion of the reappointment process, the HJPC turned into a permanent
appointment and disciplinary body

case study

Policy and Research Papers

Dealing with the Past in Security Sector Reform

Security sector reform (SSR) and transitional justice processes often occur alongside each other in societies emerging from conflict or authoritarian rule, involve many of the same actors, are supported by some of the same partner countries and impact on each other. Yet the relationship between SSR and transitional justice, or “dealing with the past” (DwP) as it is also called, remains underexplored and is often marked by ignorance and resistance. While SSR and transitional justice processes can get into each other’s way, this paper argues that SSR and DwP are intrinsically linked and can complement each other. SSR can make for better transitional justice and vice versa. Transitional justice needs SSR to prevent a recurrence of abuses, an essential element of justice. SSR can learn from transitional justice not only that it is better to deal with rather than ignore an abusive past but also how to address an abusive legacy in the security sector. The validity of these assumptions is tested in two case studies: the police reform process in Bosnia and Herzegovina after 1995 and the SSR process in Nepal after 2006.


Local Ownership and Security Sector Reform

Over the past two decades, in response to the underwhelming results of international development efforts across the Third World, arguments concerning the importance of local ownership have been gaining currency within the international development community. At its core, the discourse around ownership revolves around fundamental questions of agency: who decides, who controls, who implements, and who evaluates. The growing emphasis on local ownership, then, emerged as a critique of mainstream development practice and the broader cult of Western expertise which underpins it. As Joseph Stiglitz argued a decade ago, a vision of development in which all the answers and all the agency are seen to lie in the hands of foreigners is inherently problematic and ultimately self-defeating: ‘We have seen again and again that [local] ownership is essential for successful transformation: policies that are imposed from outside may be grudgingly accepted on a superficial basis, but will rarely be implemented as intended’. Since then, the principle of local ownership has been viewed increasingly as a precondition for effective development assistance, even if
the translation of the principle into actual practice remains an ongoing challenge.


Bosnia and Herzegovina Justice Sector Reform Strategy 2008 - 2012

The overall objective of the Justice Sector Reform Strategy is to create a joint framework of reform for justice sector institutions in BiH that sets out agreed priorities for the future development of the sector as a whole, as well as realistic actions for reform.
This strategy was created through a joint effort between the ministries of justice of the State of BiH, the entities, and cantons, as well as Brčko District Judicial Commission and the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council. It is the result of a highly participatory and consultative process that encompassed key justice sector institutions of Bosnia Herzegovina, including representatives of professional associations of judges and prosecutors, bar associations, association of mediators and NGOs. Its aim is to provide a strategic framework for addressing key issues within the justice sector over a five year timeframe.


The Implementation of Police Reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Analysing UN and EU Efforts

This document analyses the role of the main international actors involved in the implementation of police reform in post-conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina, notably that of the UN and the EU. Despite considerable efforts and resources deployed over 17 years, the implementation of police reform remains an ‘unfinished business’ that demonstrates the slow pace of implementing rule of law reforms in Bosnia’s post-conflict setting, yet, in the long-term, remains vital for Bosnia’s stability and post-conflict reconstruction process. Starting with a presentation of the status of the police before and after the conflict, UN reforms (1995–2002) are first discussed in order to set the stage for an analysis of the role of the EU in the implementation of police reform. Here, particular emphasis is placed on the institution-building actions of the EU police mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina deployed on the ground for almost a decade (2003-June 2012). The article concludes with an overall assessment of UN and EU efforts in post-conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the remaining challenges encountered by the EU on the ground, as the current leader to police reform implementation efforts. More generally, the article highlights that for police reform to succeed in the long-term, from 2012-onwards, the EU should pay particular attention to the political level, where most of the stumbling blocks for the implementation of police reform lie.


Hybrid Tribunals & the Rule of Law: Notes from Bosnia & Herzegovina & Cambodia

Following the establishment of the international ad hoc tribunals, the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda (ICTY and ICTR respectively), a new model of justice administration emerged at the end of the 1990s through the development of hybrid or internationalised courts. Hybrid tribunals are conceived as a mixture of international and domestic law and staff, as a way to provide the necessary resources and guarantees for justice closer to those whose work matters to most. This paper looks at the two most recent tribunals, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) and the War Crimes Chamber in the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina (WCC) and examines their practice related to the expectations that hybrid tribunals have raised in terms of peacebuilding. Based on the authors’ fieldwork in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Cambodia, this paper focuses particularly on the tribunals’ impact on the rebuilding of the rule of law, the strengthening of public institutions in the countries in which they operate and the perception of the public of their work. It considers the experience of the tribunals so far, problems and ongoing challenges in order to draw some lessons which can impact both their future work and other potential tribunals in post-­‐conflict settings.


Judicial Benchbook: Considerations for Domestic Violence Case Evaluation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Domestic violence constitutes one of the most complicated and difficult socio-criminal issues confronted by judiciaries and criminal justice communities the world over, including in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The purpose of the Judicial Benchbook is to improve the judicial response to domestic violence and increase the consistency of judicial practice in cases of domestic violence in BiH.

The Benchbook was developed over a nine month period by a panel of nine judges from across BiH. The recommendations were later reviewed by BiH legal scholars and practitioners as well as the institutions responsible for providing continuing education to judges and prosecutors in BiH. The Benchbook represents the first of its kind in BiH – a resource on domestic violence developed by judges for judges. While the Benchbook is tailored for the specific legal context of BiH, the recommendations are appropriate for a wider context. As well, the methodology used to develop the Benchbook can serve as a model for similar work in other locations.


The Politics of the "Unfinished Business": Bosnian Police Reform

Key Points:

  • Police reaction to recent protests in Bosnia has called attention to stalled police reform. This brief provides a historical overview detailing the evolution of police structures and the reform attempts and provides recommendations for long-term effective police reform.
  • After Bosnia’s 1992–1995 war, police reform became a crucial element of security sector reforms. The police were accused of human rights violations, a lack of proper training and over-militarization. There have been further allegations of criminality and corruption  within the force and a lack of cooperation between different police agencies, all resulting in an unsustainable policing environment.
  • Initial reforms to obtain state-wide standards through centralization were complicated by the politicization of the reforms and were perceived as an attempt to assimilate the divided state. The result is a fragmentation of police services and disagreement between the three main political blocs within the country.
  • Recommendations to improve the policing environment and build trust in the police services include curbing political interference in policing matters, increasing engagement with civil society and formalizing a system to enable reporting of public concerns and complaints.

International Intervention and the Use of Force: Military and Police Roles

Intervening states apply different approaches to the use force in war-torn countries. Calibrating the use of force according to the situation on the ground requires a convergence of military and police roles: soldiers have to be able to scale down, and police officers to scale up their use of force. In practice, intervening states display widely differing abilities to demonstrate such versatility. This paper argues that these differences are shaped by how the domestic institutions of sending states mediate between demands for versatile force and their own intervention practices. It considers the use of force by Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States in three contexts of international intervention: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Afghanistan. The paper highlights quite different responses to security problems as varied as insurgency, terrorism, organised crime and riots. This analysis offers important lessons. Those planning and implementing international interventions should take into account differences in the use of force. At the same time, moving towards versatile force profoundly changes the characteristics of security forces and may increase their short-term risks. This difficulty points to a key message emerging from this paper: effective, sustainable support to states emerging from conflict will only be feasible if intervening states reform their own security policies and practices.


Monitoring and Evaluation Arrangements for the Implementation of Community Policing in Bosnia and Herzegovina

This report analyses the monitoring and evaluation arrangements (M&E) of a community policing project ‘Implementation of Community Policing in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH)'. The field research for this report was carried out in May/June 2008.

This report is one of five case studies carried out as part of the Saferworld project ‘Evaluating for Security: Developing specific guidelines on monitoring and evaluating Security Sector Reform (SSR) interventions'


Other Documents

UNDPKO SSR Newsletter no. 17, January - March 2013

The SSR Newsletter provides an update on recent activities of the UNDPKO's SSR Unit, gives an overview of upcoming initiatives and shares relevant information and announcements with the greater SSR community.
 In this issue:

  • Adoption of African Union Policy Framework on SSR
  • Spotlight on a Mission: UNSMIL
  • SSR Guidance Launched in Geneva
  • Peacekeeping & Human Rights Conference
  • Advanced Training on SSR in Sarajevo
  • SSR Unit Support Visit to Côte d'Ivoire
  • Induction Workshop for SSR Experts in Geneva
  • Rule of Law Conference in Haiti 
  • About the SSR Newsletter
Other Document