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Using the Rule of Law to Close Dark Chapters of History? The Case of Bosnia-Herzegovina


Door corona kan helaas de buitenlandreis (die in juni als onderdeel van dit vak stond gepland) niet doorgaan.

In plaats daarvan zullen alternatieven c.q. vervangende onderwijsvormen worden ontworpen en gecreëerd (zoals audio visueel).

De voertaal van dit vak is in het Engels (this course will be in English).

Admission requirements

Second and third year Honours College Law students.
And, when there is room for it, third year students of Leiden Law School and other Leiden Faculties.
We also have 3-4 students from Bosnia-Herzegovina who participate through the Erasmus+ program.


Every nation has its own dark chapters of history and the Netherlands and Bosnia and Herzegovina are not an exception. In this course we ask whether the rule of law can help in bringing them to a close.
In particular, we focus on armed conflicts that led to the worst massacres in Europe after World War II: the Bosnian war of 1992-1995. We specifically focus on the Srebrenica genocide of July 1995 during which more than 8000 Muslim men and boys were massacred, despite the presence of the UN Dutch battalion troops (Dutchbat) responsible for safeguarding the enclave Srebrenica.
Established in 1993, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague determined in 2001 that the Srebrenica massacres constituted genocide, and it prosecuted and passed judgement on these crimes. Do these judgements bring justice and rule of law? What exactly does justice mean? What does rule of law mean? Who decides this?
In this course, you will reflect on the meaning of justice and rule of law through academic readings, but also, and most importantly, by meeting with and interviewing Bosnian war survivors, in the Netherlands and, online, in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The aim of the course is threefold:
to reflect critically on your own understandings of justice and rule of law, in general, and in the specific context of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereafter: BiH).
Second, to compare your own visions to those of war and genocide survivors as well as civil society actors, humanitarian aid workers, legal professionals, and academic scholars working in the field of justice and rule of law in BiH. What do justice and rule of law mean to a Dutch student? To a Bosnian student? What do they mean to a Bosnian war and genocide survivor?
Finally, under the guidance of Bosnian filmmaker Ado Hasanović, you learn how to present your reflections in an audio-visual manner, to both an academic and non-academic audience, by making short videos.
Together, your individual contributions will form the basis for a short documentary on justice and rule of law in a post-war context.
Dark chapters in history often receive minimal attention in national history curricula, and Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Netherlands are not an exception. By bringing together different actors’ views on justice and rule of law after war and genocide, and by opening up debate, the short documentary aims at “closing” dark chapters of European history.

Course objectives

  • Increase your theoretical and empirical understanding of justice and the rule of law in general, and in the specific context of Bosnia and Herzegovina

  • Compare and analyse personal visions of justice and rule of law with those of others, war survivors in particular

  • Learn how to present your reflections in an audio-visual manner, to both an academic and non-academic audience

  • Teamwork and collaboration are essential skills to possess on the labour market. You enhance these skills by working on audio-visual assignments and film production together.

At the end of the course:

  • students are able to conduct legal analysis and compare it to empirical reality;

  • students’ presentation skills (audio-visual, in writing) have improved;

  • students are able to apply theoretical concepts to a case study.

Mode of instruction

Please note that the mode of instruction is preliminary and therefore may be subject to change.

Overview of the course & Timetable

  1. 19 April: An introduction to the breakup of Yugoslavia, the Bosnian war (1992- 1995), the fall of Srebrenica, and filmmaking
  2. 26 April: In search of justice and rule of law: Accountability of perpetrators
  3. 10 May: In search of justice and rule of law: Accountability peacekeepers
  4. 17 May: Teaching history after war and genocide
  5. 14 June: Capturing justice and rule of law: A workshop scriptwriting and filmmaking

Classes will take place on Mondays from 17.00-20.00h CET via Kaltura.
You can enter the Kaltura classroom through [xxx]. Please make sure to use either Chrome or Firefox as your browser. The program is less stable in Internet Explorer. The first class will take place on 19 April, the last class on 14 June. After the last class, you will start your field research:

Between approximately 14-25 June (to be determined) you will interview Bosnian research participants, under the guidance of filmmaker Ado Hasanović.
Depending on the size of the group, you will work in groups of 3-4 students.
During each interview, your colleagues and you are assigned different roles.
In one interview you will be doing the interview, in another you bear responsibility for the recording of sound, in another for the visual recording of the interview (A-roll footage), and in yet another for B-roll footage (alternative footage to your main footage).

Please note:
Should Covid-19 regulations make it impossible to do field research in the Netherlands, we will resort to online field research.
The interviews with participants in Bosnia and Herzegovina will be conducted online in any case.

Assessment method

Evaluation is based on:
Individual assessment:

  • Three reflection videos (each max. 2 min.): 20%

  • Written essay: 30%

  • Participation: 10%

Group assessment:

  • Data collection: 20%

  • Visual presentation of research findings: 20%

  • (Outline fieldwork and interview recording plan: pass/fail)

  • (Outline interview questions: pass/fail)

The written essay and the visual presentation of research findings will have to be submitted on Monday 5 July, at 17.00h CET latest.


This course will use Brightspace.

Reading list

Will be made available on Brightspace.


See above under 'Mode of instruction'.


To be allowed into the course students from both Leiden and Sarajevo University must submit, in English, a short motivation letter or video. You must submit your motivation letter or video before March 29th through

Minimum and maximum number of participants

12-15 students

Contact details

  • Coordinator: Dr. Nadia Sonneveld

  • Work address: Steenschuur 25, 2311 ES Leiden, room A 1.53

  • Contact information: Mon-Fri

  • Telephone number: 071-527 30 37

  • Email: