The legacy of the former Yugoslavia’s armed conflicts in the 1990s continues to affect the regional human rights climate, the rule of law, and reconciliation efforts. ICTJ advises and assists countries in the region to implement both national and regional transitional justice measures.
Throughout the 1990s, as the former Yugoslavia broke apart, its territories—including Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Macedonia and Kosovo—were battlegrounds for the worst violence in Europe since World War II.
Violence included widespread attacks against civilians, population expulsions, systematic rape, and the use of concentration camps. Between 1991 and 2000, more than 140,000 people were killed, and almost four million others were displaced.
Legacies of these mass atrocities have been partially addressed, through international, national and regional mechanisms.
In 1993, the UN Security Council established the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), an ad hoc tribunal mandated to prosecute war crimes committed in the region since 1991. The tribunal has indicted 161 persons and has finished proceedings against 125 defendants.
Some national courts were established to try war crimes, such as special chambers at Serbia’s District Court of Belgrade in 2003 and the Court of BiH in 2005. However, these courts have faced serious challenges, including insufficient witness protection, transparency, and political pressure.
Various other transitional justice mechanisms have been deployed in the region, albeit in a limited fashion. The judicial sector of BiH underwent institutional reforms in 2002–2004. Memorials throughout the region—such as the Potočari memorial in Srebrenica—pay tribute to some victims of the violence. Some reparations programs have been created, although these have been criticized for favoring former combatants and victims of dominant ethnic groups. The International Commission for Missing Persons and national bodies are implementing a large-scale project on the search and identification of missing persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
ICTJ has been working in the former Yugoslavia since 2002 on the following initiatives: