The "Bosnian model" takes its first steps

06 February 2006 by Thierry Cruvellier and Berber Hettinga

On February 1, the Bosnia-Herzegovina War Crimes Chamber began its third trial in two months. The same week in Sarajevo, the prosecutor concluded his presentation of evidence in one of the two trials started at the beginning of December, and a preliminary hearing was held in a fourth case involving 11 suspects charged with genocide. In two months, this new style "mixed" tribunal that is still testing out its hybrid nature, will be facing its first major trials.

"Dobar dan!" - "Good day!" cries an elderly woman as she enters the courtroom, as though greeting her village neighbor. Like her, most of the prosecution witnesses in the case against Boban Simsic, who is charged with committing crimes against the Muslim population in the Visegrad region in 1992, know Simsic as a good neighbor who joined the police force. The majority of them have not returned to Visegrad since then, a region whose inhabitants are now primarily Serb. Thirteen years later, however, the promiscuity of the courtroom is stiring up the former relationship between witnesses and the accused. The Simsic case is the first trial to have truly gotten underway, beginning December 5, in the new, sober, modern and functional facilities of the Bosnia-Herzegovina state court. Officially opened on September 14, the trial was then adjourned three times by the trial chamber - composed of one Bosnian judge and two foreign judges - to allow the defense time to prepare. Less than three months later, the court simultaneously began hearing prosecution evidence in this trial and the trial of Dragoje Paunovic, charged with killing 27 Bosnians near Rogatica.

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