UPDATE: A Guide to Legal Research in Bosnia and Herzegovina

By Mirela Rožajac-Zulčić

Mirela Rožajac-Zulčić graduated in comparative literature and library science from the Department of Comparative Literature and Library Science of Faculty of Philosophy in Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina). She obtained MA degree on Gender Studies at the Center for Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Studies at the University of Sarajevo in 2008. Since November 2003, she has worked as an Expert Counselor in the Library of Law Faculty in Sarajevo. She edited four bibliographies in co-authorship. Since 2009 she is a member of the South East European Association of Law and Related Libraries and since 2016 she is a member of Committee of Experts of the Association of Librarians of FBiH. In 2006, the International Association of Law Libraries awarded her a professional development bursary to attend the 25th Annual Course in International Law Librarianship, which was held in St. Petersburg.

Published May/June 2017
(Initially published in Dec. 2005 and then updated in Aug. 2008, Nov./Dec. 2011, and March 2014)

1. General Information about Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) is located in southeastern Europe, on the Balkan Peninsula; it has borders with Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s rich cultural and political history is interwoven with periods of independence and, alternately, incorporation into great empires. After the period of the Bosnian kingdom, from the fifteenth century to the nineteenth century, B&H became part of the Ottoman Empire. It was annexed by the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in 1878, remaining under its control until 1914. After the Second World War, together with the republics of Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia and the two Autonomous Provinces Kosovo and Vojvodina, Bosnia and Herzegovina became a socialist republic. Together, these republics formed the ex Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Bosnia and Herzegovina (followed shortly thereafter by two other republics—Slovenia and Croatia) declared its independence in 1992 when it was confirmed as a sovereign and independent state by the United Nations. Unfortunately, independence meant awful war and destruction which lasted for four years and which ended with the Dayton Peace Accord agreed upon in Dayton, Ohio on 21 November 1995, and officially signed in Paris on 14 December in 1995. This war, together with the genocide and the aggression it produced, introduced a modern democratic world society as well as legal terms such as crimes against civilians, ethnic cleansing and massive rapes. (More information about crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia and related case materials can be found at the web site of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia).

Since Dayton Peace Accord brought significant transformations regarding the state organization, numerous scholar papers and publications have been written with the aim to define it. These efforts follow different lines, on the one side there are claims that B&H is unitary decentralized state, on the other side some argue in favor of federal state. However, these discussions go beyond the scope of this article, and here will be elaborated just plain facts needed for understanding of the existence of different legal information sources.

It is very difficult to give precise information about the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina, considering that the last pre-war official census was conducted in 1991 and the result was 4,377,033. The situation becomes even more complicated when one considers the great number of people killed during the war along with the number of refugees, internally displaced and disappeared persons. Although almost 20 years passed since Dayton Peace Accord had been signed, many families are still looking for their loved ones to be found, exhumed, identified and buried with dignity. There are also speculations about the number people, mainly young people, who are leaving the country every year due to economic reasons. Long-lasting debate regarding official census reached its peak, since census was held between October 1 to 15, 2013 and results were published in 2016. More about the census and its results can be found on the web-page of the Agency of Statistics of B&H, where it is stated that according to the 2013 census there are 3,531,159 inhabitants.

Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs are major ethnic groups in B&H and by the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina recognized as “the constituent peoples”. Among national minorities the Roma population is the largest; certain number of population does not identify with any ethnic group and they are referred to as the Others. More precise information regarding the population will be known with final results of the previously mentioned census. The languages in official use are Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian. Cyrillic and Latin script are used. Currency is BAM / KM, Bosnian mark or convertible mark. The capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina is Sarajevo, with approximately 275.524 citizens.

2. State Organization

The state organization of Bosnia and Herzegovina is complex. It was decided according to the Dayton Peace Accord and it respects ethnic lines which were established during the war. The main part of this article deals with legal information sources brought together on the state level; however, it is necessary for legal researcher to be introduced to other levels of administration, since many laws are initiated on entities levels or cantonal levels before they are even discussed by the state parliament. It is important to bear in mind that some issues are under the competence of lower levels of administration. This, of course, introduces a huge legal discrepancy into the Bosnian legal system.

Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of two entities and one district: Federacija Bosne i Hercegovine—F BiH (Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina), Republika Srpska—RS and District Brčko.

2.1. Entities

The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina is a compound entity, divided into 10 cantons.

There is the Constitution of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which prescribes that legislative authority in F B&H resides with the Parliament, which consists of the House of Representatives and the House of People. Laws and decisions adopted by the Parliament of F B&H, as well as the text of federal Constitution, can be found on the official web site of the Parliament of F BiH, or in the official gazette Službene Novine Federacije Bosne i Hercegovine which is published by Službeni list BiH. Beside the basic text of the Constitution, it is important to pay attention to its Anex and numerous amendments. Anex cites international human rights instruments, while amendments have been brought as a part of necessary reforms. The executive authority of FBiH is comprised of the government with a prime minister, ministers and president with two vice-presidents.

Republika Srpska (RS) is the second of the two entities mentioned above. It also has a constitution – Constitution of Republika Srpska, which has been changed and amended with more than 90 amendments. Legislative authority in the Republika Srpska rests with the National Assembly and the Council of Peoples. Laws and regulations brought by the National Assembly are published in the official gazette, Službeni Glasnik Republike Srpske; the official site of the National Assembly might also be helpful in this regard. Executive authority in the Republika Srpska resides with the Government of RS, which is comprised of a president with two vice-presidents, prime-minister and ministers.

2.2. Cantons

As mentioned above, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina is divided into ten administrative units, otherwise known as cantons. All cantons have their constitutions, which are based on the federal constitution, along with legislative and executive authority. Cantonal laws are published in the official gazettes of each canton:

Entities and cantons have their own judiciary authorities.

Municipalities and cities are local self-government units. According to the data of the Agency for Statistics of Bosnia and Herzegovina there are 141 municipalities in B&H (79 in FB&H and 62 in RS).

2.3. Brčko District

Brčko District is a special administrative unit, according to the final award of the Arbitration Tribunal for Dispute over the Inter-Entity Boundary Line in Brčko Area. Statute of the Brčko District of Bosnia and Herzegovina (an English language version of the statute is available here) explains regulates the legislative, executive and judicial authorities of the district. Finally, in 2009 Amendment 1 to the Constitution of B&H had been brought. This Amendment defines Brčko District: “... which exists under the sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina and is subject to the responsibilities of the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina as those responsibilities derive from this Constitution, whose territory is jointly owned by (a condominium of) the Entities, is a unit of local self-government with its own institutions, laws and regulations ...”. Most of the laws and regulations of Brčko District can be found on the district’s web page, or in the official gazette published by the Assembly of Brčko District—Službeni Glasnik Brčko Distrikta.

Before the 1992-1995 war, B&H was not organized in the manner described above, which means that in the past fifteen years the state has had to accept and to apply an administrative apparatus very different from what we could consider to be its traditional model. B&H presents a genuine exceptionality in terms of its constitutional-legal frame, all while being home to thirteen valid constitutions (cantons, entities, state) plus previously mentioned Statute of the Brčko District. Although there is the best intention of this article to ease search for legal and related information, it is not simple to do that for researchers who are not familiar with languages in official use in B&H, since official translations of laws and other documents and even web pages of the institutions usually don’t provide translations of their content into English language.

Besides the general text, which is composed of eleven articles, the General Peace Agreement for Bosnia and Herzegovina (Dayton Peace Accord) contains eleven annexes, by which the basic principles of the various aspects of the legal and state system of Bosnia and Herzegovina were founded.

The bases for the constitutional and general legal and state system of Bosnia and Herzegovina were established by the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, given in Anex 4 of Dayton Peace Accord. Therefore, one of the specificities of this Constitution is that it was brought as a part of peace agreement. The Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina has a wide range of authorities given to the entities, while leaving those authorities which are vitally important to the functioning of an internationally recognized state to the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The constitutions of the entities have to be adapted in accordance with this Constitution and the system of government at the national level, according to the competencies stated by this constitution.

The original language version, the English language version, of the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina is available, among other sources, on the web site of the Constitutional Court of BH.

3.1. Parliamentary Assembly

The Parliamentary assembly of B&H is comprised of two chambers: the House of Peoples and the House of Representatives. The legislative authority requires that legislative decisions gain the approval of both chambers. All laws brought forward by the Parliamentary assembly of B&H are published in the official gazette, Službeni glasnik Bosne i Hercegovine, while international agreements are published in the official gazette Službeni Glasnik Bosne i Hercegovinemeđunarodni ugovori. Subscriptions to these official gazettes, hard copy and online database, are available via Službeni list BiH.

One can find decisions and laws which are adopted or are in parliamentary procedure on the Parliament’s web site, unfortunately search and results are given only in the languages of B&H.

It is of great importance for legal researchers to know that the laws and regulations of different law branches cannot be found in organized codes, as is possible in other European countries (e.g. Austria, Germany, France, Switzerland etc.). There have been a few collections of B&H laws published as special publications—but they are not consolidated codes and one can never use them completely, considering that potential amendments might exist.

One must bear in mind that the basic texts of some B&H laws go back to the period of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, when the nation remained a part of Yugoslavia. Some of these laws have been amended in recent time, during which Bosnia and Herzegovina has existed as an independent country. Until 2011 it was possible to find a certain law or regulation and to follow its basic text along with the levels on which it has been brought forward (state, entities, cantons) by using the annual official publication Pravni vodič (Legal guide). Pravni vodič was a register of laws and regulations which contained an index with subject terms in alphabetical order. After one had found a desired term, one could retrieve all needed information regarding the laws and regulations in question. Pravni vodič was published by Službeni list B&H as well. Unfortunately, this register has not been published anymore. However, one could use a Registar propisa Bosne i Hercegovine (Register of the Regulations of B&H). This publication is annually published by company Fineks. It covers all levels, traces basic text and potential amendments and corrigenda. Online source of regulations regarding certain fields close to business: taxes, customs, labor law, securities, trade, tourism etc. is published by company Revicon.

3.2. Presidency and Council of Ministers

Complex state organization and multiethnic composition of population reflect on state institutions. The Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina is collective head of the state and has three members from three constituent peoples: one Bosniak and one Croat—both of whom are directly elected from the territory of the Federation, and one Serb directly elected from the territory of the Republika Srpska. This makes impossible for members of other ethnic groups to be nominated and elected for Presidency and House of Peoples, which European Court of Human Rights in its judgment in the now well known case Sejdić & Finci v. B&H found discriminatory. Although judgment was delivered in 2009, it has still not been implemented. On the one side there are continuous political and scholar debates regarding the manner of the implementation and constitutional reforms, and on the other side stands the fact one of the potential sanctions might be suspension of B&H membership in the Council of Europe.

Since 1998, in accordance with the Constitution and the Rules of Procedure, every eight months the Chair of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina rotates. But the Presidency’s mandate as such lasts for four years (during which they have rotations every eight months). More information regarding the Presidency can be found in English here.

The Presidency nominates the Chair of the Council of Ministers, who takes office upon the approval of the House of Representatives. The Chair nominates a Foreign Minister, a Minister for Foreign Trade and other ministers who take office upon the approval of the House of Representatives. Together, the chair and the ministries constitute the Council of Ministries with responsibility for carrying out the policies and decisions of Bosnia and Herzegovina in fields such as foreign affairs, monetary policies, and international and inter-entity criminal law enforcement. All further information about the Council of Ministers can be found on its official web site.

3.3. Office of High Representative (OHR)

The High Representative is a person designated to oversee the implementation of the civilian aspects of the Peace Agreement on behalf of the international community. He is also tasked with coordinating the activities of the civilian organizations and agencies operating in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The mandate of the High Representative is set out in Annex 10 of the Dayton Peace Agreement. It declares the High Representative the final authority charged with interpreting the agreement on the civilian implementation of the peace settlement. The Peace Implementation Council (PIC), a group of 55 countries and international organizations that sponsor and direct the peace implementation process, has subsequently elaborated on his mandate. The Steering Board of the PIC nominates the High Representative. The United Nations Security Council, which approved the Dayton Peace Agreement and the deployment of international troops in Bosnia and Herzegovina, then endorses the nomination. All that has been previously stated about the High Representative have been official explanations regarding his service as written in Annex 10 of the Dayton Peace Agreement. In case one would like to access more information regarding the OHR, their web site is recommended. This site is also suggested for those seeking out decisions made by the OHR’s, which are mainly reached on the following subjects: state symbols, state level matters and constitutional issues, the economic field, judicial reform, removals and suspensions from office, war crimes, property laws, return of displaced persons and refugees, etc.

The presence of the European Union in Bosnia and Herzegovina is strongly supported by the establishment of the Delegation of the European Union to Bosnia and Herzegovina & European Union Special Representative. Their mandate includes supporting B&H joining the EU. On 16 June 2008, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the European Union signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement.

Following completion of the relevant procedures set out in the 15 December 2014 Conclusions of the Foreign Affairs Council of the EU, the SAA entered into full force on 1 June 2015. On 15 February 2016, the application of Bosnia and Herzegovina for EU membership was submitted by the Chair of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Presidency of the Council of the EU. The European Commission sent a detailed Questionnaire to Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is expected the Questionnaire will be sent back during 2017. More information and documents regarding the European integrations one could find on the web page of the Directorate for European Integration, whose role is to coordinate european integration process at state level and between the state institutions and entities.

4. Courts

B&H is home to courts of different jurisdictions and competencies. The least complicated way to explain them might be found by referring to the following scheme:

In RS there are also commercial district and high commercial courts. It is worth noting that there is no Supreme Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is subject of many discussions among legal experts.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a member of the Council of Europe and its citizens may approach its bodies including the European Court of Human Rights.

Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina prosecutes suspected/accused of the most serious criminal offences such as war crimes and organized crimes. Prosecutorial system includes: Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Prosecutor’s Office of Brčko District, 2 entity offices, 10 cantonal offices in FB&H and 5 district offices in RS, more detailed information are available at Judicial portal of B&H, but not all content is available in English.

Beside Office of Attorney General of B&H, there are attorney general offices on lower levels. One of the main tasks of the Office of Attorney General of B&H is to provide legal advices and to represent B&H (its institutions, agencies etc.) before all bodies in country, and before international and foreign courts and organs.

Important role in human rights protection conferred on the Institution of Human Rights Ombudsman of B&H, who deals, as it is stated on its web page “with protection of rights of natural persons and legal entities in accordance with the Constitution of BiH and international human rights instruments appended thereto”. In case of discrimination, institution issues recommendations to competent organs and it also advises citizens regarding the adequate legal remedies and institutions they should contact.

The body committed to ensure the maintenance of an independent, impartial and professional judiciary in B&H is High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Its tasks are: appointment of judges, prosecutors and legal associates, disciplinary responsibility, judicial administration and statistics, judicial institutions budgets, supervision over professional development, introduction of ICT systems, reform activities in the BiH justice sector.

4.1. Court of B&H

The Court of B&H was established according to the Law on the Court of B&H, which was promulgated on November 12, 2000 by the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina and adopted by the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina on 3 July 2002. It was established in order to provide judicial protection in those matters which, under the B&H Constitution, falls under state jurisdiction, such as: the fight against terrorism, war crimes, human trafficking and organized and economic crimes. Its competences are related to criminal, administrative and appellate jurisdictions. The Court of B&H has a criminal department, an administrative department and an appellate department. Many details regarding the Court’s establishment, structure and competences can be found in the Brochure of the Court of B&H. Numerous laws and their amendments can be obtained in English from the Court’s website, including the official consolidated version of the Law on the Court of B&H (later amendments and corrigendum published later are listed separately, the Criminal Code of B&H (corrigendum and amendments are listed separately, and unofficial consolidated version in English as well), the Criminal Procedure Code of B&H (as well as unofficial consolidated version in English), the unofficial consolidated version of the Law on the transfer of cases from the ICTY to the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H and the use of evidence collected by ICTY in proceedings before the courts in B&H etc. Some laws listed on this page are firstly promulgated by the decisions of High Representative and these decisions are available here as well. Cases materials of the Court of B&H in English language are available at the Court’s web page; unfortunately, Court practice issues are available only in languages of B&H.

4.2. Constitutional Court of B&H

The history of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina can be traced to its initial establishment on 15 February 1964. Today, the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Annex 4. of Dayton Peace Agreement) elaborates in its preamble certain basic normative principles, such as respect for human dignity, liberty and equality; respect for peace, justice, tolerance, and reconciliation; and respect for democratic governmental institutions and fair procedures, all of which together represent the best means for producing peaceful relations within a pluralistic society. In addition, Article II not only contains a comprehensive catalogue of human rights and fundamental freedoms, it also declares the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and its Protocols to be directly applicable in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Moreover, it is provided that the Convention shall have priority over all other laws.

It is clear that the Constitutional Court of B&H should protect the constitutionality of the state along with the human rights and fundamental freedoms of both the citizens of B&H and those of all other nations. To appeal to the Constitutional Court of B&H, it is not necessary that the appellant be a citizen of B&H. More general information, along with information regarding the organization of and decisions reached by the constitutional court, can be found on its web site.

4.3. Case Materials and Electronic Sources

The Judicial Documentation Centre of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina (information and documentation of the court in English) has taken the first steps toward establishing an electronic collection of selected case materials from B&H courts. This database of courts’ decisions is open to the public on annual subscription base. 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 Brčko District B&H.

Besides the web sites and bulletins of individual courts, one can find reports on case materials in the following journals e.g.:

There were some initiatives regarding the creation of free access, integral legal database which would incorporate laws brought by different levels, even including their unofficial English translations. Unfortunately, these projects didn’t survive. Today, one can only point to previously mentioned official publishers whose resources are not free of charge. There are also efforts of the individuals and networks of individuals to collect and dispose legal materials online via portals or personal web pages, but having in mind criteria of reliability, it would be recommendable to turn to publishers of official gazettes.

5. Legal Education in B&H

Completing a legal education in B&H takes four years. After finishing law school, one is conferred a university degree and the title of “BA in Law”. One of the first conditions that graduate lawyers need to fulfill in order to perform certain legal duties is to pass a professional exam. The number of years which one must spend working in legal affairs before being able to take this exam depends on where the required experience has been gained. For example, a person who worked for two years in a court or public attorney’s office, prosecution authorities’ office, or lawyers’ office is entitled to apply for said professional exam. When this exam is passed, one should gain at least two years of working experience in certain legal affairs in order to apply for the bar exam, which is organized by the entity lawyers associations, The Bar Association of the Federation BiH or The Bar Association of RS which also keep their Register books. Lawyers registered in these Register books can represent parties in their legal affairs.

Judges and prosecutors have to fulfill the previously mentioned conditions regarding university education and professional examination, while other specific conditions—like the number of years spent in practice—are different. Their nomination is done by the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of B&H-HJPC (except for Constitutional Courts).

The recently implemented service of the notary public is similarly regulated by entity laws. A university education, coupled with the successful passing of a professional exam and at least five years of working experience, are needed if one wants to apply for a notary exam. Different requirements regarding working experience are needed for persons who worked as public notary assistants. This article presents the main educational platform regarding some legal professions, but there also exist a set of other specific requirements whose presentation would take great space. Therefore, it won’t be dealt with here. Specific rules and procedures also exist regarding the nomination and the decision of how many notary publics are needed for a certain territory. More about notary services can be found on web pages of their chambers e.g. Notary Chamber of FBiH, Notary Chamber of RS.

5.1. Law Faculties

Almost every sizeable city in Bosnia and Herzegovina has a law school, which was not the case before 1992. There are law schools in: Sarajevo, Zenica, Tuzla, Bihać, Mostar (“Univerzitet Džemal Bijedić), Mostar (Sveučilište u Mostaru), Banja Luka, East Sarajevo (Pale). Recently one could track growing number of private universities with different faculties, some of them provide legal studies. Fragmentation and huge number of the higher education institutions is recognized as phenomenon in the region. Its impact on the quality of education in general is disputed.

Faculty of Law of the University in Sarajevo located in the capital city has the greatest tradition and represents one of the oldest faculties in the country. Its noble work couldn’t be stopped even by aggressor’s shells fired between the years 1992 through1995. The Law School in Sarajevo was founded on August 20, 1946. Since then it offers undergraduate studies, postgraduate studies, specialized and doctoral studies.

(Building of the Rectorate of the University and the Law School in Sarajevo)

Based on the higher education reforms and the postulates of the Bologna Declaration, the Law School in Sarajevo adopted a new curriculum. The Law School has five chairs:

Each department offers obligatory and elective subjects. In order to accommodate the law students with legal practice and not only theory, students have the opportunity to participate in legal clinics and workshops. In the frame of its publishing activities, the Law School or the Law Faculty from Sarajevo publishes textbooks, legal books, collections of papers (mainly based on round tables with actual legal topics) and two periodical publications:

5.2. Centers for Judicial and Prosecutorial Training

There are two Centers for Judicial and Prosecutorial Training in B&H; located in Sarajevo and Banja Luka.

The object of the Centers is to ensure, under the supervision of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina, that training programs for judges and prosecutors are designed and implemented in light of the main requirements established for the exercise of judicial and prosecutorial duties, such as competence and impartiality. Education provided by both centers follows the principles of life-long learning as well. Both centers provide education for judges and prosecutors and they are not obliged to educate other professionals, although they can provide certain forms of education for others as well. Annual minimum of education for judges and prosecutors is determined by High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Centers issue certificates regarding the fulfillment of annual minimum of education for judges and prosecutors.

The Center for the Education of Judges and Prosecutors of FB&H and the Center for the Education of Judges and Prosecutors of the Republika Srpska began operating in 2003. Both centers have their small specialized libraries which mainly serve the needs of legal professionals employed in judiciary.

5.3. Law Libraries

The most important libraries of the country faced a terrible fate during the war, when they were subject to awful pyres aimed at their intentional destruction.

In June 1992, the National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina was one of the first buildings attacked with shells and fire which, as a result, brought devastation to our national and cultural heritage, our history and literacy.

The same destiny happened to, among many others, the Library of the Oriental Institute and collections of one of the oldest libraries in the country, Gazi Husrev Bey’s Library (1537) was relocated for safety reasons. These libraries were temples of architecture in the world. The National and University Library was settled in the building of the old city hall, which had been built in the period between 1892 through 1894, and officially inaugurated for use in 1896. After World War II, the National and University Library was founded (1945) and located in this building. It is difficult to give precise information addressing what we managed to save from our collections in an article of this kind. That said, the truth is that the complete information infrastructure was destroyed.

One could trace interesting trends in past few years. Buildings of destroyed libraries are being reconstructed. Reconstruction of the Building of the City Hall where National and University Library was located is done, but, as it seems now, it won’t be used as a home of National and University Library.

Ceremonious opening of the new building of Gazi Husrev Bey’s Library took place on January 15, 2014. Building of a completely new University Library of the University in Sarajevo is planed. At the same time, National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which had been founded in 1888, was closed in 2012 due political reasons which caused lack of financing in past twenty years. Same destiny threatens six institutions of culture more, among which is National and University Library of B&H as well. Now one could say that vital cultural institutions have been dealing with difficulties over decades.

In spite of the tragedy and uncertain present, the National and University Library focuses on the future and does its best to serve the needs of its clients. It carries the load of the modernization of B&H’s library system; it organizes trainings for librarians, researchers and others; it conducts research programs; and it pursues its publishing activities. The Journal Bosniaca and BH bibliography are among the most important publications published by the National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The application of COBISS (Co-operative Online Bibliographic System & Services) is among the efforts launched to support the B&H information and library system. This system is developed and owned by the Institute of Information Science Maribor, Slovenia, and is used by various libraries in the region. In case you would like to get an online introduction to the B&H libraries which are in this system as well as their collections, please visit the virtual library of B&H.

One can usually find law libraries or archives as a part of some courts. These mostly offer case materials and laws, commentaries and other sources needed to their primary users - legal practitioners.

This article devotes more detailed information to specialized law libraries such as the Library of the Law Faculty in Sarajevo, which is the largest law library in the country and the third largest library in the country, counting all other libraries (e.g. public, university, special, etc.), and the Library of the Center for Human Rights of University in Sarajevo.

5.3.1. The Library of the Law Faculty

The Library of the Law Faculty in Sarajevo was founded as the integral part of the Law Faculty in 1946.

All collections were saved from wartime destruction. Thanks to this lucky twist of fate, some very valuable publications were saved such as some laws enforced during the period of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, and the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. Even text books from these periods have been preserved and stored there. The library’s collection counts about 255,000 units of monograph and periodical publications. In 2006, the library introduced the previously mentioned system—COBISS—rendering information on its collection available online.

In 2004, as a part of the Faculty of Law of the University in Sarajevo, the Library of the Seminar for Legal History was established. The collection of this library is a gift of Mustafa Imamović, professor emeritus of the University in Sarajevo. In 2012, another collection was established at the same Faculty. This collection, named IRZ-Reading room, is organized and supported by the German Foundation for International Legal Cooperation (Deutsche Stiftung fur internationale rechtliche Zusammenarbeit – IRZ) with the main aim to provide support to students of study program in German law (Begleit Studium Deutches Recht), but it is at disposal to others affiliated to Faculty as well.

Soon after the war, the Library of the Law Faculty in Sarajevo did its best to reestablish old national and international contacts and to establish new ones, mainly regarding interlibrary loan and exchange. The number of institutions with which Library has this cooperation, mainly interlibrary exchange, is constantly growing.

5.3.2. The Human Rights Centre of the University of Sarajevo

It was founded with the basic idea of contributing to the implementation of internationally proscribed human rights through advising, information retrieval on documents and scholarly papers, research and education. Online access to the catalogue of the Library of the Center for Human Rights is available here. The Center for Human Rights of the University of Sarajevo has implemented numerous research projects addressing human rights, the promotion of their values, and their conditions both in regional and national terms. One of its very important projects is Human Rights Observatory: Bosnia and Herzegovina, where one can find reports on Human Rights in B&H. As it is indicated on the Observatory’s web page it provides information on: human rights in legal documents, human rights in media, perception of human rights by citizens of B&H, human rights in practice – selected issues, list of signed and ratified documents human rights documents and section with primary data for analysis.

One of the regional associations important to legal librarians is South East European Association of Law and related Libraries (SEALL), formally established in 2008. Its members are coming from B&H, Croatia, Serbia, and Slovenia. Similarly to other professional organizations members of SEALL share their knowledge and resources and provide professional support. Conference and Regional Law Libraries Round Table is annually organized and held in Neum (B&H).

Although not meant for legal librarians only, some conferences, due to their international aspect and the fact that they have been regularly held, should be mentioned e.g. Conferences of the Association of Information Professionals – Librarians, Archivists and Museologists. There are associations of librarians in both entities – Association of Librarians of FB&H and Association of Librarians of RS. These associations and conferences are important since there is neither association of librarians of B&H anymore nor association of legal librarians of B&H.

Some of the law faculties in the region (B&H, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania) are members of SEELS network “established with the aim of improving cooperation between the Law Faculties in the region and thus improving their scientific, teaching and administrative capacities”. The network is engaged in publishing activities which cover different legal topics and its publications are available in English.

6. Publishers in B&H

There are no large legal publishers in B&H. Legal publications or publications whose main subject is law are mainly published by law faculties and other related faculties, governmental institutions, non-governmental organizations, professional associations, commercial publishers, or even authors alone. The B&H publishing scene is constantly changing and it is difficult to detect which publishers are active on the book market. In order to find out, for the purpose of this article, which publishers in the field of law have been active in the past two years, some results—though not absolutely reliable—can be presented. One has to have in mind that non-governmental organizations and foundations usually publish project materials and the projects’ results which they implemented, legal guidelines, analytical reports etc., while governmental institutions are more focused on laws, their compilations and commentaries, rules regarding their work, bulletins etc. Faculties and research institutions are more active in the field of text books, monographs, and edited books. Almost every faculty has its own journal or collection of papers published regularly (e.g. Godišnjak Pravnog fakulteta u Sarajevu, Anali Pravnog fakulteta u Zenici, Godišnjak Pravnog fakulteta Univerziteta u Banjoj Luci, Zbornik radova Pravnog fakulteta u Bihaću, Zbornik radova Pravnog fakulteta Sveučilišta u Mostaru).

Beside faculties, it is worth mentioning that some legal journals available in full text and published by foundations also drive attention of legal researchers, such as Nova pravna revija (published by IRZ, German-B&H Association of Lawyers and Association for Research and Reception of German law) and Sveske za javno pravo (published by Foundation Public Law Centre). Professional associations also organize round tables and conferences and publish journals regularly (e.g. Pravo i pravda: časopis za pravnu teoriju i praksu published by Association of Judges of Federation of B&H, Pravna riječ published by Association of Lawyers of Republika Srpska).

Comparing results from past years, it is evident that this year private universities intensified their publishing activities. It is also worth of mentioning that many institutions and organisations turned to e-publishing and these publications are often not registered in catalogues of libraries, which makes it more difficult to systematically trace their publishing activities.

In the recent period the following educational institutions were engaged in publishing of legal topics: Law School of the University in Sarajevo, Institute for Research of Crimes Against Humanity and International Law of the University in Sarajevo, Faculty of Law of the University in Banja Luka, University of East Sarajevo Faculty of Law etc.

Governmental institutions, public companies: Parlamentary Assembly of B&H, Constitutional Court of B&H, Službeni list B&H, Službeni glasnik Republike Srpske etc.

The following is a list of non-governmental and international organizations/foundations: Foundation Public Law Centre, Analitika – Center for Social Research, Sarajevo Open Centre, Center for Political Studies, Konrad Adenauer Foundation- Office in B&H etc.

The following is a list of commercial publishers: Fineks, Privredna štampa, Revicon, Šahinpašić, etc.

7. Conclusion

This article presents a brief overview of the main points of the legal information system found in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although the country has experienced a difficult recent history, many things related to information systems in general are improving, but the fact that some important initiatives regarding building up integral legal information sources were discontinued, raises some worries. Dispersion of legal information additionally complicates efforts of legal practitioners, academicians and others. On the other hand, some positive things remained. Just a few years ago, extreme effort was needed just to locate reliable sources which might contain the information one might need; today, this is much easier thanks to the many tools which have been recovered and applied in recent years, such as cooperative cataloging and indexing systems, sources available online, etc. However, based on experience of working with legal researchers, legal practitioners and students and having in mind their needs, one could point out at least two main resources that are urgently needed:

1) Online, free of charge, comprehensive database of laws, legal materials and case law of B&H

There is no much need to elaborate how useful it is to have “one stop” as a source of primary information. Many countries in the region built these kinds of sources and put at the disposal their laws and regulations online, free of charge to wider public. It is important to bear in mind that the use of these sources goes beyond legal profession; it meets needs of wider public in general. Past experience shows that this is a task for public institutions, since otherwise, i. e. efforts of individuals or groups built up as a part of project activities were not sustainable.

2) Online, free of charge database of journals in full text published by public universities and professional associations / foundations in B&H and building of institutional repositories

One of the very positive regional trends (i. e. Serbia and Croatia), which regards the needs of academic society in general, is the building of online available databases of professional and academic journals. Access to some publications is restricted to bibliographic or abstract level, but most of them are accessible in full text. They provide information on download and/or citation as well. The same source is needed in B&H as well as institutional repositories and their networks. These sources ease tracing and improve the use of domestic academic production; they promote and open it beyond state borders. On the other side, statistics and surveys done by national and international agencies usually presented in B&H media show that population of B&H faces with huge rates of unemployment and poverty. Subscription fees to the most relevant commercial academic databases often exceed annual budgets for the public libraries and libraries of public institutions and in past two years we witnessed many cuts in this regard. So, from the economic point as well, it is not easy, especially for students, to fulfill their academic needs and sources of this kind would be more than helpful.

One would argue that experience in many other fields shows that building anything integral in B&H, due to the political situation, constant disputes about different issues and complex system is not possible. But, on the other hand, having a clear vision of what is needed, accompanied with will and professionalism could make everything possible.