Core international crimes:

Crime of Aggression

Crimes Against Humanity

Genocide

War Crimes



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Domestic
Legislation
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Domestic legislation for serious crimes under international law

There are three criminal codes in force in Bosnia and Herzegovina: The Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosnian federal criminal code), the Criminal Code of Brcko District of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Criminal Code of the Republika Srpska. The Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina defines crimes under international law.
Crime of Aggression

Chapter XVI of the Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina (full text and reference available under the Documents section below), includes a series of offences against the integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Article 162.a prohibits the illegal creation of military forces and article 162.b prohibits the unlawful establisment of or becoming a member of foreign paramilitary or para-police formations that are acting outside the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Article 170 punishes the setting up an of an association or the procurement of the means enabling the perpetration of the criminal offences defined in Chapter XVI.

Crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes

Crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes are defined under Chapter XVII ("Crimes Against Humanity and Values Protected by International Law"), of the Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina [English version of the articles set out below provided by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. Full text and reference available under the Documents section]:

Genocide
Article 171
    Whoever, with an aim to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, orders the perpetration of or perpetrates any of the following acts:
      a) Killing members of the group;
      b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
      c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
      d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
      e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group, shall be punished by imprisonment for a term not less than ten years or long-term imprisonment.
Crimes against Humanity
Article 172
    1) Whoever, as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of such an attack, perpetrates any of the following acts:

      a) Depriving another person of his life (murder);
      b) Extermination;
      c) Enslavement;
      d) Deportation or forcible transfer of population;
      e) Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law;
      f) Torture;
      g) Sexual intercourse or an equivalent sexual act (rape), sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilisation or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity; h) Persecutions against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious or sexual gender or other grounds that are universally recognised as impermissible under international law, in connection with any offence listed in this paragraph of this Code, any offence listed in this Code or any offence falling under the competence of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina;
      i) Enforced disappearance of persons;
      j) The crime of apartheid;
      k) Other inhumane acts of a similar character intending to cause great suffering, or serious injury to body or to physical or mental health, shall be punished by imprisonment for a term not less than ten years or long-term imprisonment.

    (2) For the purpose of paragraph 1 of this Article the following terms shall have the following meanings:

      a) Attack directed against any civilian population means a course of conduct involving the multiple perpetrations of acts referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article against any civilian population, pursuant to or in furtherance of a State or organisational policy to commit such attack.
      b) Extermination includes the intentional infliction of conditions of life, especially deprivation of access to food and medicines, calculated to bring about the destruction of part of a population.
      c) Enslavement means the exercise of any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership over a person, and includes the exercise of such power in the course of trafficking in persons, in particular women and children.
      d) Deportation or forcible transfer of population means forced displacement of the persons concerned by expulsion or other coercive acts from the area in which they are lawfully present, without grounds permitted under international law.
      e) Torture means the intentional infliction of severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, upon a person in the custody of the perpetrator or under the supervision of the perpetrator; except that torture shall not include pain or suffering arising only from, or being inherent in or incidental to, lawful sanctions.
      f) Forced pregnancy means the unlawful confinement of a woman forcibly made pregnant, with the intent of affecting the ethnic composition of any population or carrying out other grave violations of international law.
      g) Persecution means the intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights, contrary to international law, by reason of the identity of a group or collectivity.
      h) Enforced disappearance of persons means the arrest, detention or abduction of persons by, or with the authorisation, support or acquiescence of, a State or a political organisation, followed by a refusal to acknowledge that deprivation of freedom or to give information on the fate or whereabouts of those persons, with the aim of removing them from the protection of the law for a prolonged period of time.
      i) The crime of apartheid means inhumane acts of a character similar to those referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article, perpetrated in the context of an institutionalised regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and perpetrated with the aim of maintaining that regime.
War Crimes against Civilians
Article 173
    (1) Whoever in violation of rules of international law in time of war, armed conflict or occupation, orders or perpetrates any of the following acts:

      a) Attack on civilian population, settlement, individual civilians or persons unable to fight, which results in death, grave bodily injury or serious damage to health;
      b) Attack without selecting a target, by which civilian population is harmed;
      c) Killings, intentional infliction of severe physical or mental pain or suffering upon a person (torture), inhuman treatment, biological, medical or other scientific experiments, taking of tissue or organs for the purpose of transplantation, immense suffering or violation of bodily integrity or health;
      d) Dislocation or displacement or forced conversion to another nationality or religion;
      e) Sexual intercourse or an equivalent sexual act (rape) or forcible prostitution, application of measures of intimidation and terror, taking of hostages, imposing collective punishment, unlawful bringing in concentration camps and other illegal arrests and detention, deprivation of rights to fair and impartial trial, forcible service in the armed forces of the enemy's army or in its intelligence service or administration;
      f) Forced labour, starvation of the population, property confiscation, pillaging, illegal and self-willed destruction and stealing on large scale of property that is not justified by military needs, taking an illegal and disproportionate contribution or requisition, devaluation of domestic money or the unlawful issuance of money, shall be punished by imprisonment for a term not less than ten years or long-term imprisonment.

    (2) The punishment referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article shall be imposed on whomever in violation of rules of international law, in the time of war, armed conflict or occupation, orders or perpetrates any of the following acts:

      a) Attack against objects specifically protected by the international law, as well as objects and facilities with dangerous power, such as dams, embankments and nuclear power stations;
      b) Indiscriminately targeting of civilian objects which are under specific protection of international law, of non-defended places and of demilitarised zone;
      c) Long-lasting and large-scale environmental devastation, which may be detrimental to the health or survival of the population.

    (3) Whoever in violation of the rules of international law applicable in the time of war, armed conflict or occupation, orders or carries out as an occupier the resettlement of parts of its civilian population into the occupied territory, shall be punished by imprisonment for a term not less than ten years or long-term imprisonment.
War Crimes against the Wounded and Sick
Article 174
    Whoever, in violation of the rules of international law in the time of war or armed conflict, orders or perpetrates in regard to wounded, sick, shipwrecked persons, medical personnel or clergy, any of the following acts:

      a) Depriving another person of life (murders), intentional infliction of severe physical or mental pain or suffering upon persons (tortures), inhuman treatment, including therein biological, medical or other scientific experiments, taking of tissue or organs for the purpose of transplantation;
      b) Causing of great suffering or serious injury to bodily integrity or health;
      c) Unlawful and arbitrary destruction or large-scale appropriation of material, means of medical transport and stocks of medical facilities or units which is not justified by military needs, shall be punished by imprisonment for a term not less than ten years or long-term imprisonment.
War Crimes against Prisoners of War
Article 175
    Whoever, in violation of the rules of international law, orders or perpetrates in regard to prisoners of war any of the following acts:

      a) Depriving another persons of their life (murders), intentional infliction of severe physical or mental pain or suffering upon persons (tortures), inhuman treatment, including therein biological, medical or other scientific experiments, taking of tissue or organs for the purpose of transplantation;
      b) Causing of great suffering or serious injury to bodily integrity or health;
      c) Compulsive enlistment into the armed forces of an enemy power, or deprivation of the right to a fair and impartial trial,
    shall be punished by imprisonment for a term not less than ten years or long-term imprisonment.
Organising a Group of People and Instigating the Perpetration of Genocide,
Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes
Article 176
    (1) Whoever organises a group of people for the purpose of perpetrating a criminal offence referred to in Articles 171 (Genocide), 172 (Crimes against Humanity), 173 (War Crimes against Civilians), 174 (War Crimes against the Wounded and Sick) or 175 (War Crimes against Prisoners of War) of this Code, shall be punished by imprisonment for a term not less than ten years or long-term imprisonment.
    (2) Whoever becomes a member of a group of people referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article, shall be punished by imprisonment for a term between one and ten years.
    (3) A member of a group of people referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article who exposes the group before he has perpetrated a criminal offence in its ranks or on its account, shall be punished by a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, but may also be released from punishment.
    (4) Whoever calls on or instigates the perpetration of criminal offence referred to in Articles 171 through 175 of this Code, shall be punished by imprisonment for a term between one and ten years.
Individual and Command Responsibility
Article 180
    (1) A person who planned, ordered, perpetrated or otherwise aided and abetted in the planning, preparation or execution of a criminal offence referred to in Article 171 (Genocide), 172 (Crimes against Humanity), 173 (War Crimes against Civilians), 174 (War Crimes against the Wounded and Sick), 175 (War Crimes against Prisoners of War), 177 (Unlawful Killing or Wounding of the Enemy), 178 (Marauding the Killed and Wounded at the Battlefield) and 179 (Violating the Laws and Practices of Warfare) of this Code, shall be guilty for a criminal offence. The official position, whether as Head of State or Government or as a responsible Government official, shall not relieve such person of guilt nor mitigate punishment.
    (2) The fact that any of the criminal offences referred to in Article 171 through 175 and Article 177 through 179 of this Code was perpetrated by a subordinate does not relieve his superior of guilt if he knew or had reason to know that the subordinate was about to commit such acts or had done so and the superior failed to take the necessary and reasonable measures to prevent such acts or to punish the perpetrators thereof.
    (3) The fact that a person acted pursuant to an order of a Government or of a superior shall not relieve him of guilt, but may be considered in mitigation of punishment if the court determines that justice so requires.
Failure to Enforce Orders and Sentences of the International Criminal Tribunal
Article 203
    An official person in the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, entity institutions and the institution of the Brcko District of Bosnia and Herzegovina who refuses to act upon the order of international criminal tribunal to arrest or detain or extradite to the international criminal tribunal a person against whom proceedings have been initiated before the international criminal tribunal or who in any other way prevents enforcement of that order or who refuses enforcement of a legally valid and final sentence of the international criminal tribunal or who in any other way prevents enforcement of such sentence,
    shall be punished by imprisonment for a term between one and ten years.
An official person is defined in Article 1(3) of the Criminal Code as:
    "An official person means: a person elected or appointed to legislative, executive and judicial office within Bosnia and Herzegovina and other governmental and administrative institutions or services which perform particular administrative, expert and other duties, within the rights and liabilities of the authority who has founded them; a person who continuously or occasionally executes official duty in the mentioned administrative bodies or institutions, an authorised person in a business enterprise or other legal person who has been legally entrusted with the execution of public authorities, who performs certain duties within the frame of the said authority; and other persons who are performing official duties stipulated by law or other regulations based on the law."
Additionally, the following articles of the Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina criminalize different types of conduct amounting to war crimes and illegal means of combat (see full text under the Documents section below):

  • Article 177: Unlawful Killing or Wounding of the Enemy
  • Article 178: Marauding the Killed and Wounded at the Battlefield
  • Article 179: Violating the Laws and Practices of Warfare
  • Article 181: Violating the Protection Granted to Bearers of Flags of Truce
  • Article 182: Unjustified Delay of the Repatriation of Prisoners of War
  • Article 183: Destruction of Cultural, Historical and Religious Monuments
  • Article 184: Misuse of International Emblems
  • Article 193: Illicit Trafficking in Arms and Military Equipment and Products of Dual Use
  • Article 193a: Forbidden Arms and Other Means of Combat
  • Article 193.b: Illicit Trade in Chemicals
  • Article 193.c: Activities Contrary to the Regimes Prescribed by the Law on the Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction
    * * *

    Jurisdiction and statute of limitations:

    Applicability of criminal legislation of Bosnia and Herzegovina to those
    perpetrating a criminal offence within the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina
    Article 8
      (1) The criminal legislation of Bosnia and Herzegovina shall apply to anyone who perpetrates a criminal offence within its territory.
      (2) The criminal legislation of Bosnia and Herzegovina shall apply to anyone who perpetrates a criminal offence aboard a domestic vessel, regardless of its location at the time of perpetration of the offence.
      (3) The criminal legislation of Bosnia and Herzegovina shall apply to anyone who perpetrates a criminal offence aboard a domestic civil aircraft while in flight, or aboard a domestic military aircraft, regardless of its location at the time of perpetration of the offence.
    Applicability of the criminal legislation of Bosnia and Herzegovina to
    offences perpetrated outside the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina
    Article 9
      (1) The criminal legislation of Bosnia and Herzegovina shall apply to anyone who, outside of its territory, perpetrates:
        a) Any criminal offence against the integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina proscribed in Chapter XVI of this Code (Criminal Offences against the Integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina);
        b) The criminal offence of Counterfeiting of Money or of Counterfeiting of Securities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the criminal offence of Counterfeiting of Instruments of Value or Forgery of Trademarks, Measures and Weights issued on the basis of regulations enacted by the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, set forth in Articles 205 through 208 of this Code; c) A criminal offence which Bosnia and Herzegovina is bound to punish according to the provisions of international law and international treaties or intergovernmental agreements; d) A criminal offence against an official or responsible person in the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, related to his duty.
      (2) The criminal legislation of Bosnia and Herzegovina shall apply to a citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina who, outside the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, perpetrates any criminal offence.
      (3) The criminal legislation of Bosnia and Herzegovina shall apply to a non-citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina who, outside the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, perpetrates against Bosnia and Herzegovina or its citizen any criminal offence not included in paragraph (1) of this Article.
      (4) The criminal legislation of Bosnia and Herzegovina shall apply to a non-citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina who, outside the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, perpetrates against a foreign state or a non-citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina a criminal offence which, under the law in force in the place of perpetration of the criminal offence, carries a punishment of imprisonment for a term of five years or a more severe punishment.
      (5) In the cases referred to in paragraphs (2) and (3) of this Article, the criminal legislation of Bosnia and Herzegovina shall apply only if the perpetrator of the criminal offence is found within the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, or has been extradited to it, while in the case referred to in paragraph (4) of this Article, only if the perpetrator is found within the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina and is not extradited to another country.
    Criminal Offences not subject to the Statute of Limitations
    Article 19
      Criminal prosecution and execution of a sentence are not subject to the statute of limitations for criminal offences of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, or for other criminal offences that, pursuant to international law, are not subject to the statute of limitations.

    International Criminal Court

    Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court: Bosnia and Herzegovina signed the Rome Statute on 17 July 2000 and deposited its intrument of ratification on 11 April 2002.


  • Documents

    Legal

  • Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina. (2013, amended 2015)
    BiH Official Gazette 3/03 with amendments to the Law as published in "Official Gazette of BiH" no. 32/03, 37/03 54/04, 61/04, 30/05, 53/06, 55/06, 32/07, 8/10, 47/14, 22/15, 40/15. [ENG] (Unofficial consolidated text provided by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights)

  • Law on Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
    Official Gazette of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 49/09. Consolidated version. [ENG]

  • Law on the Transfer of Cases from the ICTY to the Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
    December 2004. [ENG]

  • Decree with force of Law on Extradition at the Request of the International Tribunal. 06 April 1995. [ENG]

  • Law on Protection of Witnesses under Threat and Vulnerable Witnesses. 01 March 2003. [ENG]

  • Law on Displaced-Expelled Persons and Refugees-Repatriates in the Sarajevo Canton. 19 June 2001. [ENG]
    Consolidated text prepared by the Legislative Commission of the Canton Sarajevo Assembly which include the Law on Displaced-Expelled Persons and Refugees-Repatriates in the Canton Sarajevo (Canton Sarajevo OG, no. 15/01) and the Law on Amendments to the Law on Displaced-Expelled Persons and Refugees-Repatriates in the Canton Sarajevo (Canton Sarajevo OG, no. 22/05)

    Reports

  • National War Crimes Strategy. Ministry of Justice of Bosnia and Herzegovina. December 2008. [ENG]


  • Resources and Links

  • Cases before the War Crimes Chamber at the Court of BiH. The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina. [Last accessed on 18 November 2015]. [External Link]
  • Criminal laws of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina. [ENG]. [Last accessed on 18 November 2015]. [External Link]
  • Office of the High Representative and EU Special Representative (HR/EUSR) for Bosnia and Herzegovina. [Last accessed on 18 November 2015]. [External Link]
  • Cases before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
  • Database on Legislation in the Balkans. Database on Legislation of the War Crimes Justice Project, a four-million euro project carried out by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights in partnership with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) as well as the OSCE field operations in the region. [External Link]
  • Accountability for War Crimes: Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). [External Link]
  • The Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Constitutional Court of Bosna and Herzegovina. [ENG]. [Last accessed on 18 November 2015]. [External Link]
  • International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. [External Link]
  • International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals. [External Link]