Periods of conflict, repression or large-scale levels of violence often result in serious human rights violations. Transitional justice processes consist of mechanisms that facilitate the promotion of truth, access to justice, reparations and guarantee of non-recurrence. Originally, transitional justice mechanisms focused on post-authoritarian settings, but due to the new political contexts at the global level, these mechanisms have extended their focus to post-conflict and weakly institutionalized contexts.
UNDP has a development approach that seeks to address past grievances and prepare the foundation for a peaceful and sustainable future by supporting transitional justice mechanisms and engaging with national institutions and reform efforts to build capacities and enable stability and social cohesion at the local level. UNDP supports transitional justice mechanisms in various contexts by putting people at the center, through ensuring participatory processes and diverse inclusion, especially for those most vulnerable such as women, youth, indigenous populations, and LGBTQI individuals.
Western Balkans Regional War Crimes Project
UNDP, in the second year of implementation of its Regional War Crimes (RWC) project in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia, continued addressing legacies of the conflicts in the Western Balkans and supporting peacebuilding, reconciliation, and social cohesion. The UNDP-facilitated cooperation of national prosecutors from the four countries, through UN Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, continued despite the pandemic’s challenges. It further contributed to reducing case backlogs, moving several stalled cases forward including some of the most sensitive and complex ones (e.g., case transfers from BiH to Serbia included cases against the highest-ranking accused processed so far in Serbia). The prosecutors improved coordination of investigations and started jointly identifying cases for mutual transfers, and their cross-border legal assistance accelerated. As an example, the filing requests for assistance sent from Serbia to BiH doubled and from Serbia to Croatia tripled compared to the previous years.
As part of its training series, UNDP trained 120 operatives from prosecution services and law enforcement in Bosnia and Herzegovina on cross-sectoral cooperation in analytical evidence gathering and exhumations. The capacities of the national judicial institutions to provide human rights-based and inclusive victim and witness support were enhanced. This support included providing video-conferencing equipment and workshops on cross-border cooperation for victim and witness support services that enabled more victim-sensitive cross-border hearings of victims and witnesses.
UNDP also trained more than 80 victim support officers, investigators, and others, including investigating conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV), as part of a series of regional peer-to-peer meetings and trainings. This assistance promoted a holistic approach to supporting victims of war crimes, which included specifics of investigating CRSV crimes against men and boys for the first time in the Western Balkans. In addition, seven civil society organizations (CSOs) from the region developed and applied, with the project’s support, innovative models for helping victims, including victims of CRSV, access justice, receive psycho-social support, and get their voice heard in the media.
25 selected journalists continued to undergo training that will enhance their skills to report on war crimes trials and various aspects of transitional justice. The project also piloted and started a series of workshops to generate and empower new opinion leaders and agents of change to promote accountability and reconciliation, targeting students and young professionals (such as history researchers, political analysts, CSO activists).