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Judicial Reform under International Law: Notes from Bosnia and Herzegovina

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As a result of a recognition that many of the atrocities of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina stemmed from poor respect for fundamental democratic and human rights principles, the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA) came to emphasize that the new BiH should be a democratic state operating under the rule of law and that the state and entity governments should ensure the highest level of internationally recognized human rights standards and fundamental freedoms. It was also clear to the international community that the judicial authorities of BiH would not be able to transform this language into reality when the nationalist political parties resisted any such development. Annex 10 of the DPA therefore gave the Office of the High Representative, the international body responsible for the implementation of the DPA and the highest authority `in theatre', a far-reaching mandate, sometimes referred to as `protectorate-style powers', to decide, interpret and implement policies as it sees appropriate and to substitute itself for local authorities when they fail to promote the goals and principles spelled out in the DPA. In order to promote judicial reform and safeguard vital rule of law interests, the High Representative may consequently impose decisions and laws and remove obstructionist officials. This article describes how these powers are exercised and how the broader effort of judicial reform, involving a wide range of national and international actors, is organized in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Law, Umeå University, Sweden


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