Involvement of the European Union (EU) and focus on non-judicial aspects of justice will strengthen post-war peace efforts in Bosnia-Herzegovina, according to a new policy brief issued by The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI).

In Strengthening Transitional Justice in Bosnia: Regional Possibilities and Parallel Narratives, Dejan Guzina and Branka Marijan argue that, although progress with individual prosecutions and official apologies has been made in the 18 years since the war ended, Bosnia and the region still lack a widely supported strategy for transitional justice. “The past continues to be debated in the region, which has only served to perpetuate inter-ethnic tensions,” the authors say.

Guzina and Marijan state that an “EU-backed regional transitional justice strategy benefits both the states in the region and also has broader considerations for EU stability,” especially because “Western Balkan countries are eventually expected to become full members of the [EU], as Croatia has already done.” The authors recommend the following measures:

  • Experts working on the transitional justice strategy in Bosnia must directly address the reasons it was not widely supported in the Serb Republic by engaging with the public and holding public forums.
  • Bosnia and its two kin states, Croatia and Serbia, must engage in a regional dialogue, supported by the EU.
  • The EU should extend its support for the Regional Commission Tasked with Establishing the Facts about All Victims of War Crimes and Other Serious Human Rights Violations Committed on the Territory of the former Yugoslavia from 1991–2001 (RECOM).
  • Funds for reparations and for the construction of memorials should be designated with specific time commitments by state agencies.
  • Divisive histories need to be addressed through projects focussing on history in the education system, supported by the ministries of the two entities.
  • Opportunities such as exchange programs and scholarships should be made available to Bosnian youth who wish to study at EU institutions.

Bosnia has experienced heavy international involvement, but “local populations have been left with few tools to deal with the past in locally meaningful ways,” say Guzina and Marijan. “Additionally, Bosnia’s divisive political system continues to provide a fertile ground for different local narratives about the conflict that directly challenge the reconciliatory potentials of the [International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia] in bringing Bosnian communities together.” Addressing the need for a comprehensive strategy will have important consequences for regional stability, beyond Bosnia’s borders.

For more information on Strengthening Transitional Justice in Bosnia: Regional Possibilities and Parallel Narratives, including a free PDF download, visit: The policy brief was produced by the project “The European Union and State Building in Fragile States (the Western Balkans),” which is supported by a 2011-2012 CIGI Collaborative Research Award.


Dejan Guzina is associate professor and chair of the Political Science Department at Wilfrid Laurier University. An expert in comparative democratization and ethnic politics, his work has been published in several international journals. His current research is on state and nation building in the Western Balkans (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Macedonia).

Branka Marijan is a Ph.D. candidate in global governance at Wilfrid Laurier University, based at the Balsillie School of International Affairs. Her research focusses on the interaction of international organizations, norms and values with local identities and perceptions in the post-conflict societies of Bosnia and Northern Ireland.

Kevin Dias, Communications Specialist, CIGI
Tel: 519.885.2444, ext. 7238, Email: [email protected]

The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) is an independent, non-partisan think tank on international governance. Led by experienced practitioners and distinguished academics, CIGI supports research, forms networks, advances policy debate and generates ideas for multilateral governance improvements. Conducting an active agenda of research, events and publications, CIGI’s interdisciplinary work includes collaboration with policy, business and academic communities around the world. CIGI was founded in 2001 by Jim Balsillie, then co-CEO of Research In Motion (BlackBerry), and collaborates with and gratefully acknowledges support from a number of strategic partners, in particular the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario. For more information, please visit


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