Family members of the only survivor of the Zecovi massacre, Prijedor  region, Bosnia and Herzgovina. - © UNDP Bosnia/Armin Smailovic

Transitional Justice

UNDP focuses on implementing context-specific and participatory transitional justice processes in support of broader peacebuilding objectives, particularly those that foster peace and equity through inclusive and democratic governance. UNDP recognizes that enhancing rule of law institutions’ capacity through transitional justice processes helps provide truth, redress, and a voice to victims that establishes an authentic foundation for lasting peace and development. UNDP supports Member States to strengthen mechanisms and processes that promote accountability, address impunity, seek truth, and facilitate reparations. UNDP also connects these transitional justice processes to longer-term prevention and development efforts by supporting institutional reform to safeguard non-recurrence of violence and large-scale violations of human rights.

Addressing Impunity in the Western Balkans

Through its Regional War Crimes Project, UNDP has managed to achieve progress in addressing some of the troubling legacies of the previous conflicts in the Western Balkans, by building and reviving cross-border and inter-sectoral co-operation in war crimes case processing and in the search for missing persons. In 2019, a UNDP facilitated mechanism of problem-solving meetings among prosecution offices from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia, was established which reactivated cooperation among prosecutors from different jurisdictions and created a foundation for increased cooperation including information and evidence sharing, case transfers, and coordinated investigations. An instrumental partnership in enabling progress has been with the Office of the Prosecutor of the UN’s International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, and as a result of cooperation in 2019, nine war crimes cases were identified in Bosnia and Herzegovina and transferred to Serbia and Croatia in 2019. In addition, regional cooperation between relevant national judicial services has created the possibility of finding practical and legal solutions to improve cross-border assistance to victims and witnesses of war crimes, thereby encouraging their participation in the justice process, particularly the provision of testimonies in investigations and trials. A group of journalists from the Western Balkans received training to improve the quality of media reporting on war crimes and on other issues related to transitional justice. 

In Bosnia and Herzegovina where the war crimes caseload is the heaviest in the Western Balkans and challenges on transitional justice remain multiple, UNDP trained prosecution offices, law enforcement and other state institutions on inter-sectoral co-operation and analytics in war crimes investigations and the search for missing persons. Through a series of townhall meetings which involved institutions focused on war crimes and the search for missing persons, the families of missing persons and victims’ associations, the project assisted in improving the vital communication between these institutions and the most affected communities.