News 12 Dec 12

Bihac Court to Get Witness Support Section

The United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, has pledged to finance the creation of a witness support section in judicial institutions in Bihac, which should help witnesses in war crime trials.

Justice Report

According to the agreement signed between the representatives of the Una Sana authorities and UNDP, the section should provide an adequate space for offices and waiting rooms. Technical staff will be hired and trained. As a result, witnesses will receive the necessary support prior, during and after court proceedings.

The agreement was co-signed by Andrej Mamontov, the Minister of Justice and Administration of the Una-Sana Cantonal Government, Edina Arnautovic, the president of the Cantonal Court in Bihac, Asim Dzafic, the Chief Cantonal Prosecutor in Bihac and Slobodan Tadic, the Acting Assistant Resident Representative of UNDP.

“The Cantonal Court in Bihac has solved the biggest number of war-crimes cases – about 50 - in comparison to all other courts, except the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The signing of the Memorandum means a lot to us, because it will improve the quality of our trials and make court proceedings more efficient,” Edina Arnautovic, the president of the Cantonal Court, said.

The opening of the witness support section is of great importance for the Una-Sana Cantonal Prosecution too.

“Our prosecutors have had to act as investigators, prosecutors and psychologists at the same time. They have done all that in order to prepare witnesses for trials in a quality manner. This section will not only support witnesses in war crimes cases, but we shall use it in cases of juvenile delinquency and domestic violence too,” the Chief Cantonal Prosecutor Asim Dzafic said.

Dzafic added that, among others, the section staff would include a psychologist, adding that several expert assistants would be hired in the upcoming period.

Within its project “Support to Processing of War Crimes Cases in Bosnia and Herzegovina” the UNDP Office in Bosnia and Herzegovina has established and equipped witness support sections with cantonal and district courts and prosecutions in Sarajevo, Banja Luka and Eastern Sarajevo.

The aim is to provide support for victims and witnesses during the investigation phase and court proceedings.

In co-operation with the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina and with the financial support from the US Government, UNDP is working on expanding the mechanisms for providing witnesses and victims with an equal level of support and protection.

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