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Bar News - December 16, 2005

Members of Bosnian War Crimes Tribunal Visit New Hampshire


 Bosnia War Crimes Tribunal giving speech
Judge Robert Lynn (at far right) listens to Madame Judge Meddzida Kresco, President of hte Bosnia War Crimes Tribunal, as she speaks through a translator at Southern New Hampshire University, while Slobodan Kovac, Minister of Justice, looks on.

Three members of the Bosnian War Crimes Tribunal studied the justice system in New Hampshire by spending time in various courts in Manchester and Concord during a recent visit to the United States that included three days in Washington, DC.


Madame Judge Meddzida Kresco, president of the Bosnia War Crimes Tribunal, Slobodan Kovac, Minister of Justice and Vaso Mrinkovic, Deputy Chief Prosecutor and head of the War Crimes Office, made a tour here that allowed members of the NH Bar to interface with members of the Bosnian legal community.


At a lunch meeting in the Hospitality Center at Southern NH University in Manchester, the members of the tribunal were welcomed by Chief Judge Robert Lynn of the Superior Court Center in Manchester and Ambassador George Bruno, chair of the International Law Section, which co-sponsored the event with the NH World Affairs Council.


The Bosnia/Herzegovina tribunal, which came into being because the UN Tribunal in The Hague was moving so slowly and costing so much, hoped to answer questions both in Washington and in New Hampshire about its progress to date. Deeply involved in the current efforts to right the wrongs suffered by victims of war crimes in their country, the tribunal—in spite of the risk to their personal safety—has made a bold commitment to prosecute the perpetrators of those crimes—and seeks the continued confidence and support of the U.S.


Michael Johnson, former Merrimack County Attorney, is the Registrar for the tribunal and although active U.S. participation in the creation of the tribunal will come to an end in the spring of 2006, its members are eager to keep the channels of communication open between Washington decision-makers and the Bosnian justice system.


“First of all,” said Madame Judge Kresco, speaking through a translator, “we want to thank the United States for ending the war in Bosnia.”  The tribunal’s visit marked the 10-year anniversary of the Dayton Peace Accords of Nov. 21, 1995.  “We also want to thank you on behalf of the Bosnian immigrants who have found a new life in your country….


 “Some say we are courageous to do these things [establish a war crimes court], but we do only what we should do,” continued Judge Kresco.  She described herself and other members of the Court as witnesses that war crimes will be punished. “Over time, the wounds will be healed,” she said. “At first the victims’ groups were skeptical, so we organized visits from the various organizations so they could have access to everything we did.”


She went on to describe the Hague Tribunal as having very high, very strict standards.  “We have patterned the Bosnian Court’s standards after those of The Hague—and we have received feedback that there is confidence in the Court, which is completely open and will be monitored nationally and internationally.”  At present, the international division of the Bosnian Court includes two American judges. 


The executive and legislative branches of the Bosnian government are now separate, resulting in greater independence for the justice system.  In his comments, Minister Kovac said, “We have separated the judiciary from the political and have extraordinary cooperation.  Politicians no longer appoint judges.”


Deputy Chief Prosecutor Marinkovic also spoke briefly.  Following the speeches, the meeting was thrown open for questions from the luncheon guests.  Most of these questions were concerned with specifics about the Court’s procedures and were answered thoughtfully by the various members of the tribunal.       

Perhaps the most significant comment came from Madame Judge Kresco, who summed up the feelings of the tribunal as they return to Bosnia to continue their work: “We are being born again—and it is a slow process.”

If you are in doubt about the status of any meeting, please call the Bar Center at 603-224-6942 before you head out.

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