The Council of Europe office in Bosnia and Herzegovina implemented seven projects pertaining to prison-related issues from October 2003.
The elements that can be considered as added value of all CoE implemented projects in the past, regardless whether these were Joint or Voluntary Contribution projects are that they were part of a long-term process, the CoE was able to rely on a solid network of European experts, the CoE’s action involved the prison administrations of the whole country and it aimed at building local capacity and using local skills.
Support to prison staff training in Bosnia and Herzegovina
The project "Support to prison staff training in Bosnia and Herzegovina” is the re-designed continuation of previous prison reform activities within the framework of the US/CoE VC "Enhancing recruitment procedures and training of staff for the State prison of Bosnia and Herzegovina” implemented by Council of Europe (CoE) in the period December 2011 – November 2013. The project has been extended for additional 24 months, until 30 June 2016.
The project is financed by the generous voluntary contribution of the Government of the United States of America, through the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).
The overall objective of the project is to contribute to further alignment of penitentiary institutions across BiH prison jurisdictions with the European and international standards.
This project intends to work specifically on the following:
- Component 1: ensuring that security procedures and treatment of prisoners in selected prisons incorporate human rights and public safety aspects and are performed in accordance with the best practices as set out in the existing training manual/operational procedures.
- Component 2: improving prison management skills and practice in selected prisons, in line with the European standards and best practices.
Training and development of prison staff in BiH
Assistance for the reform of the prison system in BiH
Professionalisation and harmonisation of prison system in BiH
Development of a reliable and functioning prison system and enhancing of regional co-operation in the Western Balkans
BiH also benefited from assistance in the prisons sector implemented under the CARDS Regional Project, Joint Programme funded by the EC and co-financed by the CoE entitled “Development of a reliable and functioning Prison system respecting fundamental rights and standards, and enhancing of regional co-operation in the Western Balkans” (hereinafter referred to as “the JP Western Balkans”).
The JP Western Balkans achieved some valuable results that could be used in future activities in BiH. Participants at the Closing Conference agreed that all prison systems should include a permanent training facility, offering training to meet all levels of needs, from initial over in-service to more senior management training. Moreover, training and the development of professional skills was seen as a cross-cutting issue which emerged in connection with the pursuit of a range of issues, including effective inspections/monitoring and meeting the needs of vulnerable and high-risk prisoners.
One of the main recommendations coming out of the project was to pursue certain objectives within national projects and then possibly to seek harmonisation of their results at the regional level. One such objective was to optimise conditions for reducing prison overcrowding by reviewing legal provisions promoting alternatives to imprisonment and identifying good practices in the optimisation of space as included in the original project. Another objective was to facilitate the exchange of information and communication through the development of a strategy for compatible information. The main reason that this objective was taken out of the Project was the lack of IT in some of the beneficiaries, including BiH.
Efficient prison management in BiH
In addition to the above mentioned CoE work in this field, the project completed in 2010, implemented by the CoE and financed jointly by the EU and the CoE, "Efficient Prison Management in BiH" took as its starting point the case law of the ECtHR and the CPT standards. It resulted in development of a strategy paper on “Framework strategic directions for the possible introduction of sanctions and measures implemented in the community in BiH” was produced and the relevant legislative amendments were prepared on this basis; building capacity for prison staff in the human rights area: training materials were prepared or updated, refresher trainings for national trainers and cascade trainings for prison management and staff were organised (319 participants overall).
The level of knowledge of the target groups improved significantly and the results were already applied in some prisons; improving the situation of vulnerable and high-risk prisoners: proposals for treatment programmes for vulnerable and high risk prisoners were developed and presented to assistant ministers and prison directors; assisting with drafting a new law on mental health or amendments to the existing one: proposals for changes and amendments to the law on care for persons with mental impairments in the FBiH and the law on protection of mentally disordered people in RS were prepared. Recommendations contained in these proposals were used to amend State level rules on security measures; facilitating the installation of an Information Management System: conditions to create a single, nation-wide system were not being met, therefore the CoE’s action was limited to producing guidelines for the preparation of tenders, which were presented to the relevant ministries. No legislative amendments were expected or proposed. The project results for this component were more limited; assisting with the development of an independent inspection mechanism: guidelines were produced and shared to raise awareness on European standards on inspecting prisons. This was the more complex and challenging objective; the Republika Srpska (RS) authorities committed themselves to applying these guidelines in the preparation of future laws, whereas no assurance has been provided by the Federation of BiH (FBiH) as yet.
Harmonisation of BiH sanctions policies and practices with European standards
The overall objective of the Project is to support authorities in ensuring full compliance with European standards and further advancing towards European integration. It further aims to facilitate a political dialogue among BiH authorities at state and entity level regarding harmonisation of standards and practice in the penitentiary field.
- Component 1: improving implementation of community sanctions (community service, release on parole, suspended sentence with protective supervision, electronic monitoring, approval of external privileges and transfer of prisoners);
- Component 2: establishment of probation service(s);
- Component 3: developing prison staff training capacities further and harmonising them between the jurisdictions;
- Component 4: development and harmonisation of treatment programmes for some of the vulnerable categories of prisoners (minors/juvenile offenders serving sentence, persons serving mandatory security measure, elderly and physically impaired prisoners).