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


Onderstaande tekst is in het Engels. De voertaal zal echter waarschijnlijk grotendeels in het Nederlands zijn. Een aantal gastsprekers zullen in het Engels communiceren en ook in Bosnië-Herzegovina zal er natuurlijk gecommuniceerd worden in het Engels.

Voor de studiereis wordt een eigen bijdrage van de studenten gevraagd. Het precieze bedrag is nog niet vastgesteld, meer informatie hierover volgt later.

Admission requirements

Third year students of Leiden Law School.
We also aim at having 2-3 students from Bosnia-Herzegovina who participate through the Erasmus+ program.


Every nation has its own dark chapters of history. In this course we ask whether the rule of law can help in bringing them to a close.
In particular, we focus on ethnic and religious conflicts that led to the worst massacres in Europe after World
War II: the Bosnian war of 1992-1995, including 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.
Dark chapters in history often receive minimal attention in national history curricula, and Bosnia-Herzegovina and The Netherlands are not an exception, despite the establishment of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague to deal with the crimes committed during the Bosnian war.

The course starts with an introduction to the Bosnian war, including an analysis of concepts such as ethnic-religious conflict, justice, rule of law, and everyday peace. Subsequently, we study a number of cases handled by the ICTY court.
To find out whether war crime trials contribute to justice and reconciliation, we pay a 7-12-day visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina (Sarajevo, Srebrenica, Mostar, Banja Luka). Students are asked to compare their own vision(s) of justice to those of selected people living in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and present their findings both in writing and visually (e.g. photography, drawing, sound and video recording). In doing so, they will contribute to writing an important part of European history.

Course objectives

  • Increase students’ abilities to compare theoretical findings to empirical reality by using different research methods (e.g. legal analysis, desk research, interviewing, observation, photography, video recording);

  • Increase students’ theoretical and empirical understanding of the relation between justice, the rule of law, and everyday peace (post-conflict reconciliation);

  • Increase students’ presentation skills, both orally and in writing.

At the end of the course:

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

  • students’ presentation skills (orally, in writing) have improved;

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

Mode of instruction

The study tour is preceded by 4 meetings;
Monday 11 May, 17:00 - 19:00, KOG C0.14
Monday 18 May, 17:00 - 19:00, KOG C0.14
Monday 25 May, 17:00 - 19:00, KOG C0.14
Tuesday 2 June, 17:00 - 19:00, KOG C0.14

  • Seminarlectures and guestspeakers;

  • Study and research tour to Bosnia-Herzegovina (10 days; from 10 to 20 June 2020).

Assessment method

Students or instructor create classroom Wiki in which students will submit:

  • Two reflection papers before commencement study and research tour (20% of final grade; can be written in Dutch);

  • Visual presentation of research findings after the study and research tour (50% of final grade);

  • Short policy brief (30% of final grade).

The reflection papers, the visual presentation of findings, and the policy brief are written in such a way that each student’s output forms a chapter in the virtual book “Using the Rule of Law to Close Dark Chapters of History? Findings from Bosnia-Herzegovina”.


More information on this course is offered in Blackboard.

Reading list

Will be made available on Blackboard.


Through (cv, letter of motivation and grades) before 16 december 2019.

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: