Organisation of the judicial system

When we talk about the organisational framework of the court system in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), taking into account the specific constitutional and territorial organisation, it should be noted that there are four court systems in BiH: the court system of BiH, the court systems of the Entities (the Federation of BiH and the Republika Srpska) and the court system of the Brcko District of BiH.
  • At the level of BiH, there are the Constitutional Court of BiH, the Court of BiH and the Prosecutor's Office of BiH.
  • In the Federation of BiH (FBiH) there are: the Constitutional Court of FBiH, the Supreme Court of FBiH, the FBiH Prosecutor's Office, the municipal and cantonal courts.
  • In Republika Srpska (RS) there are the courts of general and of special jurisdiction. The courts of general jurisdiction are: basic courts, district courts and the Supreme Court of the Republika Srpska. The courts of special jurisdiction are the district commercial courts and the Higher Commercial Court.
  • In Brcko District of BiH (BDBiH) there are: Basic Court of Brcko District of BiH and Appellate Court of Brcko District.
High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of BiH
According to the Law on the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of BiH from 2004, the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of BiH (HJPC) is an independent and autonomous body. The HJPC has the task to ensure an independent, impartial and professional judiciary (including courts and prosecutor's offices) in BiH. The HJPC has the following competences: appointment of the holders of judicial offices; conducting disciplinary proceedings against the holders of judicial offices; supervising their professional training; deciding on issues of incompatibility; deciding on temporary assignment; participating in the procedure of determining of the budget for the courts and prosecutor's offices; establishing the criteria for evaluation of judges and prosecutors; directing and coordinating the use of information technology in the courts; determining the number of judges and prosecutors; providing opinions on draft laws and initiating the procedure for the adoption of legislation in the field of judiciary; publishing Codes of Ethics; adopting the Rulebook on internal court operations, etc.

Prosecutors' offices

When it comes to the legislation governing the organisation of the prosecutors' offices in BiH, the situation is somewhat more complex. Thus, in BiH we have a total of 15 laws which have, for their object, the establishment, structure and functioning of the prosecutors' offices in BiH.
  • At the level of BiH, the Law on the Prosecutor's Office of BiH has established the Prosecutor's Office of BiH.
  • In FBiH we have 10 cantonal laws on the Prosecutor's Offices which have established 10 prosecutors' offices at the cantonal level, as follows: 1) Cantonal Prosecutor's Office of the Sarajevo Canton, 2) Cantonal Prosecutor's Office of Central Bosnia Canton, 3) Cantonal Prosecutor's Office of Tuzla Canton, 4) Cantonal Prosecutor's Office of Una-Sana Canton, 5) Cantonal Prosecutor's Office of Posavina Canton, 6) Cantonal Prosecutor's Office of Zenica-Doboj Canton, 7) Cantonal Prosecutor's Office of Herzegovina-Neretva Canton, 8) Cantonal Prosecutor's Office of West Herzegovina Canton; 9) Cantonal Prosecutor's Office of Gora'de and 10) Cantonal Prosecutor's Office of Livno. The Law on the Prosecutor's Office of FBiH has established the FBiH Prosecutor's Office.
  • In RS there is the Law on the prosecutors' offices in RS which has established five District prosecutors' offices (Banja Luka, Bijeljina, Doboj, Istocno Sarajevo and Trebinje) and the Prosecutor's Office of RS. The Law on the Combating of Organised and Most Severe Forms of Crimes within the District Prosecutor's Office Banja Luka has also established a Special Prosecutor's Office for Prevention of Organised and Most Severe Forms of Crimes (Special Prosecutor's Office).
  • The Law on the Prosecutor's Office of BD has established the Prosecutor's Office of BD.

International judicial cooperation in criminal matters

Ministry of Justice of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the central authority for communication with other countries regarding the providing of international legal assistance in criminal and civil matters. This means that all the communication between the Bosnia and Herzegovina judiciary and foreign countries shall be handled by the Ministry of Justice, except in cases where the Law or international treaties stipulate otherwise (When immediate action is required, requests for mutual legal assistance in criminal matters can be sent through Interpol and directly to the judicial authorities in the requested state, while the respective Ministry of Justice shall be provided with a copy of the request). In relation to the incoming request for controlled delivery or covert investigation, the designated central authorities are the Prosecutor's office of BiH and Ministry of Security of BiH. The central authority will review the MLA request of the foreign and domestic authority especially in view of the conditions and requirements arising from the International Agreements and will forward it to a judicial authority competent for its execution, or return in along with stating reasons, for which it could not be forwarded for execution, or will request the required supplementations. Requests for international legal assistance shall be transmitted in form of Letter Rogatory. The Letter Rogatory of foreign judicial authority and the attached documentation must be translated into the official language of Bosnia and Herzegovina, except in cases where international treaties stipulate otherwise.

Also, Letter Rogatory should contain name of authority making request, legal grounds to afford mutual legal assistance, specific description of an act of MLA sought, legal definition of criminal offense and short summary of the facts, and, if possible exact personal details of the person concerned and his status in proceedings. International legal assistance in criminal matters includes: All actions of the authorized body of the foreign country undertaken upon the request of the domestic authorized body and vice versa; Procedures of extradition, transfer of the convicted persons, transfer of the criminal procedure from one country to another. In case there are pre-trial proceedings being conducted in a foreign state, the competence to execute the MLA request in Bosnia and Herzegovina will pertain to the regional public prosecutor's office otherwise to the court, in the jurisdiction of which the requested action of legal assistance is to be performed. The subject matter and territorial jurisdiction of the courts and prosecutor's office in Bosnia and Herzegovina to conduct the proceedings upon the MLA request, shall be determined in the manner in which the jurisdiction would be determined were the case at hand tried in Bosnia and Herzegovina. If the MLA request was delivered to an authority, which is not competent to accept it, it will immediately forward it to the authority competent to accept it and will notify the foreign authority thereof.

It is necessary to mention that the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina decides whether or not the legal requirements for extradition have been met for all extradition requests of the foreign states. The courts in BiH provide international legal assistance in cases under their jurisdiction in accordance with domestic law or on the basis of the principle of reciprocity. In accordance with the principle of reciprocity, if the requesting State is not bound by an international treaty, domestic authorities shall act on its request if the requesting State guarantees that it will comply with a comparable request from the Bosnian authority and if it is a request, the performance of which is not bound by the existence of an international treaty. By the Succession Agreement, Bosnia and Herzegovina has assumed all International Agreements in this field which were obligatory for the former SFR Yugoslavia, which means that all international treaties related to international cooperation in criminal matters that the former Yugoslavia had signed, became a part of the BiH legal system. Besides the above mentioned, BiH as sovereign state joined many European and international conventions that are related to international cooperation in criminal matters and concluded bilateral treaties with other countries established after the disintegration of Yugoslavia.

Bosnia and Herzegovina took a step further by adopting the Law on International Assistance in Criminal Matters in 2009. This Law has high importance in terms of specifying the procedure of communication for domestic authorities and bodies which is very important especially for those who write the letters rogatory and have to bear in mind that the language of the letter should be appropriate. Before adoption of the Law, the process of providing international legal assistance in criminal matters was not sufficiently regulated by Criminal Procedure Code of either BiH or its entities (Republika Srpska and Federation BiH). The CPCs contained only general provisions related to certain aspects of providing this type of legal aid. After three years of implementation of the Law, Ministry of Justice of Bosnia and Herzegovina has prepared amendments which were adopted in 2013. With these amendments we manage to eliminate identified problems in providing international legal assistance in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Above mentioned amendments are justified because after their adoption no foreign MLA request is rejected due to lack of legal basis for execution of the request.

Link to national legislation: (English)

Useful national links

The Prosecutor's office of Bosnia and Herzegovina:
Ministry of Justice of Bosnia and Herzegovina:
Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina:
Constitutional Court of B&H:
Constitutional Court of RS:
Constitutional Court of FB&H:
Ministry of security of B&H:

Other useful information

The Judicial Documentation Centre of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina has taken the first steps toward establishing an electronic collection of selected case materials from B&H courts. Unfortunately, this database of courts decisions is not fully accessible to the public. Most courts publish bulletins documenting their court praxis wherein one can find most-if not all-of their cases and decisions; alternatively, one can check their web sites, for example case materials of the Constitutional Court of B&H, Court of B&H, Constitutional Court of RS, Constitutional Court of FB&H and Appellate Court of Brcko District B&H.
Also, official legislation databases
are not fully accessible to the public.

Country report 2016: (SWD(2016) 365 final)
MLA report: MLA report Bosnia and Herzegovina

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