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11 July 2011

Study Tour to the Hague by BiH Journalists

The Balkans Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN organized a seven-day study tour to the Hague for thirteen journalists from Bosnia and Herzegovina, who had an opportunity to get an insight into the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY.

BIRN organized the tour with support from the Governments of Norway and Switzerland and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Norwegian and Swiss Ministries of Foreign Affairs provided financial resources for 11 journalists, while the OSCE financed two more.

Representatives of the Tribunal and Prosecution, as well as all other services within that institution, presented the work of the Tribunal from all angles to the journalists, members of the Association of Court Reporters, AIS.

BIRN Director Anisa Suceska-Vekic says that, thanks to the understanding of and support from the Governments of Norway and Switzerland and OSCE, the journalists, who monitor war crimes trials held in Bosnia and Herzegovina, have gained new knowledge about the international practices in war-crimes cases. 

“Through the study tour, BIRN wanted to enable court reporters from Bosnia and Herzegovina to gain a new experience and improve their skills by familiarizing themselves with the work of the international court,” Suceska-Vekic said.

During their stay at the Hague the journalists attended three lectures, covering a set of diverse topics, like work on investigations and proceedings in courtroom, issues related to proving guilt, defence of indictees and contempt of court, protection of witnesses and organization of the Detention Unit.

Serge Brammertz, Chief Prosecutor, John Hocking, Registrar, Rob Reid, Chief of Investigations with the Prosecution, David Kennedy, Chief of the Detention Unit, defence counsels and representatives of other services spoke about the mentioned topics. 

One segment of the tour concerned the openness of the Tribunal towards public and accessibility of thousands of court decisions and pieces of evidence though its website. Representatives of the Outreach Programme provided the journalists with details about this subject.

Bosnian journalists had a chance to hear interesting experiences from their colleagues from SENSE and Beta news agencies, who have reported from trials held before the Tribunal for many years already.

In addition, they attended a plea hearing in the case of Ratko Mladic, former Commander of the Republika Srpska Army, VRS, as well as the trials of Radovan Karadzic, former President of Republika Srpska, and other indictees, who are charged with crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The journalists prepared trial reports for their media outlets with assistance of and support from BIRN BiH. Besides that, they conducted interviews with Hague Tribunal representatives and took statements from victims, who attended indictee Mladic’s plea hearing.

The journalists from Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Zenica, Bihac, Doboj and Brcko gave high marks to the study tour and experiences gained through their visit to the Hague Tribunal, pointing out that they had a chance to exchange opinions with their colleagues and familiarize themselves with the work of the institution  dealing with processing of the most-responsible war crimes perpetrators.

At the same time a study tour to the Hague was organized for journalists and editors from Serbia, who attended joint lectures with journalists and editors from Bosnia and Herzegovina. This was done with the aim of establishing as good regional cooperation as possible.

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