Undercutting the Political Economy of Conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina: A Transitional Justice Approach to Prosecuting Systemic Economic Crimes


While transitional justice scholarship has begun to recognize that engaging with the economic forces driving particular conflicts is a crucial part of dealing with the legacy of those conflicts, the international community has been slow to implement mechanisms to address those forces in any meaningful way in post-conflict societies. One notable exception, however, has been the section of the internationalized state court in Bosnia and Herzegovina dedicated to prosecuting the most serious cases of organized crime, economic crime and corruption. Although generally overlooked by the transitional justice community, the model it established for a hybrid tribunal targeting systemic economic crimes is ideal for tackling many of the forces that contribute to continued instability in Bosnia and other post-conflict societies. Through the framework of recent scholarship on the political economy of conflict, this Note first identifies several economic structures that have promoted and facilitated conflict in Bosnia, including pervasive corruption and an extensive shadow economy tied to organized crime. The Note then explains how the internationalized court was designed to effectively target those phenomena in the post-combat economy. Finally, the Note argues that international involvement in prosecuting economic crimes can be justified under international law where narrowly tailored to address the systemic crimes underpinning conflict.