Milan Mandić v. Bosnia and Herzegovina

Key Judgment

Legal Relevance

Keywords: Relatives as Victims | Right to Know the Truth | State/Non-State Agents | Effective Remedy | Duty to Investigate | Duty to Prosecute

Themes: Characteristics of the Crime | Justice and Truth

The Committee held that, although the acts of the Bosnian Territorial Defence Army were not directly attributable to the State, they were committed in the State's territory during a complex armed conflict in which multiple forces were involved. Holding that in such circumstances the State may face particular difficulties in investigating crimes committed on its territory, the Committee found the fact that the victim's remains had not yet been located and that the culprits had not yet been brought to justice not sufficient in itself to find a violation of the obligation to provide effective remedies. However, in light of the fact that the authorities did not provide the victim's family with relevant information regarding his fate and whereabouts, and caused them anguish and distress due to the uncertainty locating the victim's remains and the impossibility of burying him, the Committee found a violation of the victim's right to life. The Committee also made a finding of inhuman and degrading treatment with respect to the victim’s family, holding that the lack of information as to the fate and whereabouts of the victim and the lack of care and seriousness on the part of the authorities amounted to a revictimisation of the victim’s son. In their individual opinions, two members of the Committee noted that the facts did not constituted an extrajudicial execution but rather an enforced disappearance with continuing effects, owing to the fact that the victim’s remains have not been found.

Judgment Date

November 5, 2015


Bosnia and Herzegovina

Judicial Body

Human Rights Committee

Articles violated

Article 2(3) [ICCPR], Article 6 [ICCPR], Article 7 [ICCPR]

Articles not violated / not dealt with

Article 2(3) [ICCPR], Article 17 [ICCPR], Article 23(1) [ICCPR]

Facts of the Case

In June 1992, Mr. Božo Mandić was wounded when his house was subjected to crossfire between the Serbian and the Bosnian Territorial Defence Forces. His wife took care of him for a week, until she was captured by members of the Bosnian Territorial Defence Force. When she was released in July 1992, she tried to make contact with her husband, with no success. In the following weeks, Mr. Mandić's relatives reported his disappearance to the ICRC, who attested he was missing only in July 1995. In 2000, a man told Mr. Mandić's son that he had been forced by a member of the Bosnian Territorial Defence Force to bury his father's body, and that he had reported those events to the authorities with no reaction from their side. Mr. Mandić's son later discovered that in 1998 a number of corpses had been exhumed in the relevant area, and that the characteristics of one of them allegedly matched a description of Mr. Mandić. In March 2005, the Office for Tracing Detained and Missing Persons of the Republika Srpska requested the authorities to disclose all information relevant to determining the identity of persons who had gone missing during the war, and also requested access to the records of the exhumation. In February 2007, the authorities confirmed that exhumations had been carried out in the relevant area between September and November 1998. However, Mr. Mandić's son never received any information about the outcome of the investigations. Despite a 2005 Constitutional Court's decision ordering the authorities to provide all accessible and available information on people who went missing during the war, the relevant institutions did not provide any information on Mr. Mandić's whereabouts.

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