Jurisdiction, organization and structure of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina are regulated by the Law on Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Organization and Structure
President of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina
The President of the Court is appointed by the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council. The President of the Court organizes the work of the Court and provides for the establishment of cooperation with other institutions. When absent, the President of the Court is replaced by a judge who was assigned to be his replacement in accordance with the annual schedule. For certain activities, the President of the Court may assign his/her own replacement from among the judges of the Court. The President is appointed for a term of six (6) years with the possibility of reappointment.
The Plenum of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Plenum of the Court consists of the President and all members of the Court. Every judge has the right and obligation to participate in the work of the Plenum of the Court. The President prepares and convenes the plenum session, assigns a reporting judge and chairs the work of the Plenum. The Plenum adopts its decisions with a simple majority of all judges of the Court.
Competencies of the Plenum:
a) adopts the Rules of Procedures of the Court and other internal documents of the Court in accordance with the Law and the Rules of Procedures of the Court
b) To adopt work plan proposed by the President
c) adopts the Court’s budget projection
Judges and Court Panels
Presently the Court of BiH has 53 judges, in accordance with the decision of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of BiH. The Court panels comprise three judges each. The cases are allocated to the panels pursuant to the automatic case allocation system.
The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina has three divisions: criminal, administrative and appellate.
The Criminal Division consists of three Sections:
- Section I for War Crimes
- Section II for Organized Crime, Economic Crime and Corruption
- Section III for all other criminal offenses falling under the Court's jurisdiction
The Administrative Division consists of the following:
- Administrative Disputes Subdivision/section
- Civil Procedure Subdivision/section
- Enforcement Procedure Subdivision/section
The Appellate Division consists of three Sections:
- Section I which rules on appeals/legal remedies from decisions of the Section I of the Criminal Division;
- Section II which rules on appeals from decisions of the Section II of the Criminal Division;
- Section III which rules on appeals from decisions of Section III of the Criminal Division, decisions of the Administrative Division, and deals with complaints regarding election issues.
The Court has a Common Secretariat and a Registry for Section I and Section II of Criminal and Appellate Divisions
Pursuant to the Law and Rules of Procedure of the Court, the Common Secretariat attends to/administers general administrative and legal affairs and material and financial affairs for the entire Court. At the same time, the Common Secretariat is in charge of providing professional legal and other support to judges of Section III of the Criminal Division, judges of Section III of the Appellate Division and judges of the Administrative Division. The Common Secretariat is headed by the general secretary.
In accordance with the aforesaid responsibilities, the Common Secretariat has the following sections:
a) The Office of the President
Legal, IT, translation, typing and other professional services required for a successful work of the President of the Court are provided in the Office of the President.
b) Department for legal, general, administrative and technical support affairs
Work performed within this Department includes the drafting of general and individual documents of the Court, editing, and other general activities necessary for the performance of the Court’s functions in their entirety. A Records Office (Pisarna) for Sections III of the Criminal, Appellate and Administrative Division was established within this Department to render typing and IT services for the needs of these Divisions.
As of July 2010, receipt, processing, keeping of judicial records, actions taken in relation to the judicial records and the sending of documents to the parties has been done within a special electronic Case Management System. The CMS was initially created within the USAID FILE project. Since October 2006, the HJPC has taken charge of the CMS project. The HJPC has been perfecting and gradually implementing the CMS in all the courts in BiH.
Here are the main advantages of the CMS system:
- An automatic computer software allocates cases to judges, taking into account the workload of each individual judge, thereby achieving equal workload of judges and preventing the “picking” of cases;
- The system has enhanced transparency of the work of the Court given that both the case number and name of the judge are instantly available to the parties, while at a later stage of the project implementation the parties will be in a position to access their case electronically;
- Efficiency and effectiveness of work has improved – judges are immediately informed of any new document in cases allocated to them, information on all cases can be easily and quickly found and reviewed; judges issue orders to specific employees within the system, and they can monitor their implementation at any point in time; standardized court forms are available to judges and all other employees, which speed up the work and achieve a better standardization of work;
- The system facilitated the management of the Court given that persons in managerial positions can at all times collect from the electronic database information and statistical reports by different parameters and for different reporting periods.
c) Department for financial-material affairs
Activities of this Department include the drafting of financial plans and reports, budget execution, monitoring of budget expenditures, book-keeping and accounting, payroll activities, public procurements and all other material and financial activities necessary for the functioning of the Court as a whole.
The Common Secretariat comprises three separate secretariats which provide professional and administrative-technical support to the judges in Section III of the Criminal and Appellate Divisions and the Administrative Division, as follows:
- Secretariat of Section III of the Criminal Division,
- Secretariat of the Administrative Division, and
- Secretariat of Section III of the Appellate Division.
Secretariat of Section III of Criminal Division
Direct legal support to the judges is provided by the Secretary of Section III of the Criminal Division, legal advisors who participate in the drafting of court decisions and study the regulations applicable to specific cases, study the legal sources, legal positions, legal interpretations, as well as general positions and opinions referring to legal issues that come up in specific cases, which facilitates and improves the work on cases.
Section III is also in charge of the execution of criminal sanctions imposed by all sections of the Criminal and Appellate Divisions of the Court of BiH. A legal officer for the execution of criminal sanctions, and clerks – specialists in the execution of criminal sanctions and registration of temporarily seized items – perform this work.
Secretariat of the Administrative Division
The Secretary of the Administrative Division, legal advisors, and the legal officer in the preparatory proceedings provide professional support to the judges in the Administrative Division. The legal staff of the Administrative Division of the Court of BiH provide professional legal assistance to the judges and court panels in developing jurisprudence, assist with the drafting of the Court's decisions, conduct thorough research of complex legal issues, and provide other types of legal assistance.
Secretariat of Section III of Appellate Division
Professional support to the judges in Section III of the Appellate Division is provided by the Secretary of the Division, legal advisors and the legal officer in the preparatory proceedings. The legal staff of Section III of the Appellate Division of the Court of BiH provide professional legal assistance to the judges and court panels in developing jurisprudence, assist with the drafting of the Court's decisions, conduct thorough research of complex legal issues, and provide other types of legal assistance.
The Law on the Court of BiH stipulates that the Registry of the Court is responsible for management and providing support to the Sections I and II of the Criminal Division and Sections I and II of the Appellate Division. The Registrar of the Court of BiH manages the Registry.
The Registry of the Court, which is an internal organizational unit of the Court, should be distinguished from the Registry that existed as an international organization. As of 2006, which means from the onset of the transition period, the Court has been gradually taking over the responsibilities that were originally assigned to the international Registry when it was established in 2004. As the Court assumed the Registry’s responsibilities, relevant departments which were initially established within the international Registry, together with the employees who worked in those departments/sections, were gradually integrated into the Court, that is, the Registry of the Court.
The departments/sections that were integrated into the Court of BiH, that is, the Registry of the Court include:
a) Legal Department
The Legal Department of the Court of BiH provides professional legal assistance to the judges and panels of Section I for War Crimes and Section II for Organized Crime, Economic Crime and Corruption of the Criminal and Appellate Divisions of the Court of BiH.
The Legal Department staff include legal advisors, legal advisors-assistants, legal officers and interns. The staff provide support to the judges of Section I and II of the Criminal and Appellate Divisions in handling cases through various activities, such as the preparation of cases for trial, following the course of trials, keeping the record during a hearing, making arrangements for witnesses to testify via video-link, assisting judges during the preparation of draft court decisions. While working on cases that fall under the jurisdiction of Sections I and II of the Criminal and Appellate Divisions, the Department staff conducts research on numerous legal issues in different areas of both national and international law, especially international humanitarian law, and follow the practice of international tribunals. By engaging interns in support teams, the Legal Department provides them with an opportunity to gain the necessary knowledge and experience for further professional development and work.
b) Court Management Section
The Court Management Section has five sub-sections: records office (pisarna) for Section I and II of the Criminal and Appellate Divisions of the Court, audio-video team, typists team, and the administrative-technical team. The Court Management Section is also in charge of the library and maintenance of the Court's official web site.
During 2010, the CMS (Case Management System) was introduced in Sections I and II, and in accordance with the new CMS modules, in the coming period, the Court Management Section will begin scanning all submissions and court decisions in Sections I and II of the Criminal and Appellate Divisions of the Court, so that the court documents and decisions can be stored and searched electronically, which will enable the creation and keeping the case files in both electronic and hard copy forms.
Audio – video team
Audio and video technicians (AV team) of the Court Management Section make sure that all court proceedings in criminal cases before the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina are recorded. In addition to being responsible for an unhindered course of trials in terms of technical requirements, the AV technicians take care of the audio-video archives containing recordings of all trials, including the list of requests for the issuance of court recordings.
The Court of BiH has a specialized legal library which satisfies the needs of its users, primarily judges, legal advisors and legal officers. The library offers monographic and serial publications, articles from both national and international professional literature, relevant legal regulations and information available through all other electronic library catalogues and the internet. The library maintains the collection by purchases, replacements and gifts made by individuals and national and foreign institutions.
The library has the Official Gazettes of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republika Srpska, Brčko District, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Sarajevo Canton, and a full set of Official Gazettes of SFRY and Serbia and Montenegro from the 1945-2004 period published on a DVD. Access to the electronic database of regulations of the Official Gazette of BiH, the EPSCO electronic database of articles and the electronic database „American University War Crimes Research Office - Jurisprudence Collections“ has been secured in order to enable its users to study both national and international case law.
The library holdings currently include about 2000 titles in English and the official languages in BiH, mainly in the field of criminal law and international humanitarian law.
Web site of the Court of BiH, www.sudbih.gov.ba, contains an abundant supply of information concerning the cases conducted before the Court of BiH. All interested parties can acquire information about the cases of Sections I and II of the Criminal and Appellate Divisions, and download verdicts available on the Court’s web site. All relevant information, statistics, trial schedules, both daily and weekly, photographs from trials, press releases, summaries of weekly activities and much more can easily be accessed on the web site. Furthermore, interested parties arrange organized visits, interviews, and submit requests for audio-video material and access to information, through the web site.
Information on the Court's web site is constantly expanded and updated while seeking to ensure that the access to such information is as efficient and easy as possible, and that the specific requirements of the public have been met.
c) Witness Support Section
Witness Support Section is responsible for providing support to witnesses in proceedings conducted before the Court, particularly to witnesses in cases before Section I for War Crimes and Section II for Organized Crime, Economic Crime and Corruption of the Court of BiH, and, when necessary, in cases before Section III for General Crime of the Criminal and Appellate Divisions of the Court. Such support is provided prior to, during and after the testimony. A team of professional psychologists facilitates the witnesses’ appearance and testifying before the Court so as to prevent their testimony from further affecting their mental, physical, and health status, and provides logistic support for their arrival at the Court. When it comes to vulnerable/protected witnesses, the Section coordinates its activities with the Witness Support Unit of the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA).
The Witness Support Section staff perform their activities with the highest level of moral integrity, impartiality and confidentiality. All information provided to the Section by a witness is treated in a professional manner, respecting the individuality and privacy of the witness.
d) Public Information and Outreach Section
The Public Information and Outreach Section of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina is in charge of communication with the national and international media, but also with the individuals. The basic task of this Section is to establish a two-way communication with representatives of the Bosnia and Herzegovina public, and to deliver all public information from the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
As part of the outreach program of the Court of BiH, the Public Information and Outreach Section, in cooperation with the other sections, organizes on a daily basis visits to the Court by students from the country and from abroad, as well as by representatives of various organizations and associations. During the visits to the Court of BiH, they get a chance to talk to the representatives of the Court, take a look at the courtrooms and tour the premises of the Court of BiH in order get a better picture of this judicial institution.
Numerous information prepared and distributed to the media and the public by the Public Information and Outreach Section may be found on the Court's web site.
e) Administrative Section
The Administrative Section of the Court of BiH provides administrative support to Sections I and II, translation services, strategic planning, project management, donor cooperation and other administrative and legal support for the needs of the Court. This Section carries out and coordinates all activities related to human resources, their appointment, selection, induction, training, career advancement, motivation, performance evaluation and all other activities aimed at securing the employees and providing for their professional development.
Under the laws of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Court of BiH has jurisdiction to try criminal, administrative and civil cases, but also the authority to review first-instance and second-instance court decisions upon legal remedies, under the conditions and in the procedure as stipulated by the Law, that is, it has appellate jurisdiction as well.
In criminal matters the Court has jurisdiction to try in the first-instance:
1. cases involving criminal offenses defined in the Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina and other laws of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
2. cases involving criminal offenses stipulated by the laws of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republika Srpska and the Brčko District of BiH when such criminal offense:
a) endanger the sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence, national and international personality of Bosnia and Herzegovina;
b) may have serious repercussions or detrimental consequences to the economy of Bosnia and Herzegovina, or may have other detrimental consequences to Bosnia and Herzegovina or may cause serious economic damage or other detrimental consequences beyond the territory of an Entity or the BiH Brčko District.
In addition to its jurisdiction to try cases in the first instance the Court has the authority to decide on:
1. appeals from verdicts or decisions of the Court rendered in criminal cases;
2. extraordinary legal remedies filed against final decisions of the Court in criminal cases.
Furthermore, the Court also retains jurisdiction as follows:
1. to take a final and legally binding position on the implementation of laws of Bosnia and Herzegovina and international treaties at the request of any entity court or any court of the Brčko District of BiH entrusted with the implementation of a law of Bosnia and Herzegovina;
2. to issue practical directions on the application of substantive criminal laws of Bosnia and Herzegovina falling within the competence of the Court, pertaining to genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and violations of the laws and customs of warfare, and individual criminal responsibility related to those crimes, ex officio or at the request of any court of the Entities or of the Brčko District of BiH;
3. to decide on any issue related to international and inter-Entity criminal law enforcement, including relations with Interpol and other international police agencies, such as decisions on the transfer of convicted persons, and on the extradition and surrender of persons, requested from any authority in the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina by a foreign country or international courts or Tribunals
4. to decide on any conflict of jurisdiction between the courts of the Entities and the Court of the Brčko District of BiH and between the Court of BiH and any other Court;
5. to decide on the reopening of criminal proceedings for criminal offences prescribed in the Laws of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In administrative matters, the Court has jurisdiction to decide in the first instance on:
1. actions taken against individual and general final administrative acts issued by the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the exercise of public authorities, in accordance with the Law of Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the silence of administration.
2. on requests for the protection of freedoms and rights of citizens guaranteed by the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, when those rights and freedoms have been violated by a final individual act of the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, provided that no other judicial protection has been secured.
The Court has a special jurisdiction to assess the legality of individual and general executive administrative acts issued based on the state law, in the framework of exercising public duties and authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, for which no judicial examination is envisioned by law. In addition to its jurisdiction to adjudicate in the first instance, the Court has the authority to decide on extraordinary legal remedies filed against first-instance decisions of the Court rendered in administrative cases.
The Court also retains jurisdiction as follows:
1. to deal with complaints concerning violations of the electoral law and the other regulations and directives issued by the Central Election Commission;
2. to resolve conflicts of jurisdiction between entity courts and/or between entity and of the Brčko District’s courts, and between the Court of BiH and any other court;
3. deal with all other cases as provided by the Law of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Civil and eforcement procedure jurisdiction:
In civil cases, the Court has jurisdiction to decide in the first instance over:
1. property disputes between the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the entities, between the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Brčko District of BiH, between the entities, between the entities and the Brčko District of BiH and between the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina exercising their public authority.
2. property disputes arising from the damage which is a result of activities of the administrative bodies of Bosnia and Herzegovina, other institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina and officials of those bodies and institutions.
3. other property disputes where the Court jurisdiction has been established by the laws of Bosnia and Herzegovina or an international treaty.
The Court also retains jurisdiction to decide on :
1. appeals from first-instance verdicts or decisions of the Court rendered in civil cases;
2. extraordinary legal remedies filed against final decisions of the Court in civil cases.
The Court also has jurisdiction over:
1. enforcement of claims based on enforceable decisions of the Court of BiH, and institutions and agencies of BiH, unless otherwise defined by a special law;
2. conflicts of jurisdiction between entity courts and/or between entity courts and courts of the Brčko District of BiH, and between the Court of BiH and any other court;