Wednesday, April 16, 2008


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (April 16,2008) - The use of plea agreements in war crimes cases in Bosnia was examined yesterday in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo at an expert meeting organised by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), in co-operation with the German Foundation for International Legal Co-operation and the Rule of Law Initiative.

“War crimes trials present a difficult challenge for justice systems and society as a whole. The interest of the prosecution has to be balanced with the right of the victims and the desire of the wider public to learn the truth about all aspects of what happened and why it happened,” said Lars Gerold, ODIHR Rule of Law Officer.

Plea agreements, possible under Bosnian law since 2005, allow for settlements between the prosecution and suspected war criminals, often involving a lesser sentence in exchange for an at least partial confession. This can increase the likelihood of war criminals being convicted, but may not always lead to uncovering the full truth about war crimes cases, OSCE said.

Research shows that just five of nearly 100 completed war crimes cases ended with plea agreements between the prosecutor’s office and the defence, according to Nebojsa Milanovic, Director of the Rule of Law Initiative.

The meeting brought together prosecutors, judges, defence lawyers and experts from the United States, Germany and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, as well as journalists and representatives of associations of war crime victims.

Participants discussed the challenges war crime cases present to the justice system and society, and how the rights of the victims can be respected.

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