Transitional Justice and Human Rights Protection in Europe

The spectre of violent conflicts and dictatorships still lingers across several regions and countries of Europe, making the full enjoyment of human rights, democracy and the rule of law illusory for many Europeans. Continuing instability, deep divisions, the lack of resources and of functioning institutions make reconciliation and the rebuilding of peace in affected societies a daunting challenge which states have to confront.

While there is no unique package of measures for dealing with, past or on-going, serious human rights violations, history shows that durable solutions cannot be achieved unless they are based on the pillars of justice, reparations, truth, and guarantees of non-recurrence.

Whatever combination of transitional justice measures is chosen by states, it must be in conformity with European human rights standards, notably those emanating from the European Convention on Human Rights and the Strasbourg Court’s case law.

During her country visits and continuous dialogues with national authorities and civil society, the Commissioner takes note of the progress achieved. She also identifies the remaining challenges and provides advice to member states on ways to ensure the respect of human rights in the context of transitional justice processes.

Issue papers

Dealing with the past for a better future - Achieving justice, peace and social cohesion in the region of the former Yugoslavia (2023)

Available versions:
 English | French (currently being translated)

Summary of the report:
Albanian | Bosnian | Croatian | English | French | Serbian

Report in a nutshell:
Albanian | Bosnian | Croatian | English | French | Serbian

Missing persons and victims of enforced disappearance in Europe (2016)

Available versions: 
English | French | Russian

Post-war justice and durable peace in the former Yugoslavia (2012)

Available versions:
English | Bosnian | Croatian | Serbian

Position Papers


Selected recent case-law of the European Court of Human Rights
  • Anchev v. Bulgaria – decision of 5 December 2017 concerning a complaint by a lawyer having held a number of high-ranking posts about being exposed for affiliation with the former security services during the communist regime
  • Karajanov v. the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia – judgment of 6 April 2017 about the publication of a decision of a lustration commission on its website before it had become final and the damaging effects of this on the applicant’s reputation
  • Ivanovski v. “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia – judgment of 21 January 2016 concerning lustration proceedings against the then president of the Constitutional Court, as a result of which he was dismissed from office
  • Vasiliauskas v. Lithuania – Grand Chamber judgment of 20 October 2015 about the foreseeability of a conviction for genocide for the killing of two Lithuanian partisans in 1953
  • Perinçek v. Switzerland – Grand Chamber judgment of 15 October 2015 concerning a criminal conviction for statements made about the massacre and deportation of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire in 1915 (as well as reviewing the Court’s case-law concerning Holocaust denial)
  • Sõro v. Estonia – judgment of 3 September 2015 concerning public disclosure of an individual’s past employment as a driver for the KGB
  • Ališić and others v. BiH, Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” - Grand Chamber final judgment of 16 July 2014, concerning non-payment of ‘old savings’ accounts denominated in foreign currency
  • Zornić v. Bosnia and Herzegovina - judgment of 15 July 2014, concerning ineligibility to stand for certain elections of an applicant who did not declare affiliation with any of the three "constituent people" of Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Jelić v. Croatia - jugment of 12 June 2014, concerning no adequate investigation into the death of husband killed by the Croatian police
  • Marguš v. Croatia - final judgment of 27 May 2014, concerning the procedings brought against a commander in the Croatian army for the murder and serious wounding of civilians in 1991 during the war in Croatia
  • Gürtekin and Others v. Cyprus, inadmissibility decision of 11 March 2014 about the Cyprus authorities’ decision to close a fresh investigation into killings carried out during intercommunal conflicts in Cyprus in 1963-1964
  • Maktouf and Damjanović v. BiH - Grand Chamber judgment of 18 July 2013, concerning the retroactive application of criminal law laying down heavier sentences for wartime crimes than the law in force when the crimes were committed
  • Kurić and others v. Slovenia - Grand Chamber judgment of 26 June 2012, concerning the ‘erased' persons
  • Janowiec and others v. Russia - Grand Chamber judgment of 21 October 2013, concerning missing persons in the Katyn case
  • Palić v. Bosnia and Herzegovina - judgment of 15 February 2011, concerning a state's procedural obligation to investigate into a case of missing person
  • Jularić v. Croatia - judgment of 20 January 2011, concerning inadequate and ineffective investigation into the circumstances surrounding the killing of the applicant's husband
  • Skendžić and Krznarić v. Croatia - judgment of 20 January 2011, concerning ineffectiveness and the lack of independence of the authorities involved in investigating the disappearance of the applicants' close relative
  • Đokić v. BiH - final judgment of 4 October 2010, concerning the right of the applicant, a former member of the armed forces of the former Yugoslavia, to regain the possession and register the ownership of his pre-war apartment in the Federation of BiH
  • Čolic and others v. BIH - final judgment of 28 June 2010, concerning the non-enforcement of final domestic court decisions ordering payment of war damages
  • Kononov v. Latvia – Grand Chamber judgment of 17 May 2010 about a conviction under legislation introduced in 1993 for war crimes committed during the Second World War
  • Sejdić and Finci v. Bosnia and Herzegovina - Grand Chamber judgment of 22 December 2009, concerning the applicants' ineligibility to stand for election to the House of Peoples and the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina on the ground of their Roma and Jewish origin
  • Kenedi v. Hungary – judgment of 26 May 2009 concerning a historian’s complaint about the authorities’ protracted reluctance to enforce a court order granting him access to archives of the former state security services
  • Radanović v. Croatia - final judgment of 21 March 2007, concerning the applicant’s right to her property which was allocated for use to another person during the war in Croatia
  • Kolk and Kislyiy v. Estonia – decisions of 17 January 2006 about criminal convictions for crimes against humanity for participation in 1949 deportations from occupied Estonia to remote areas of the Soviet Union
Documents by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers 
PACE resolutions and recommendations relating to the post-conflict justice 
Council of Europe treaties 

External resources

UN treaty bodies jurisprudence

  • UN Human Rights Committee, Communication No 1510/2006, Dušan Vojnovic v. Croatia, Views of 30/03/2009 (case concerning proceedings in relation with the termination of the author's specially protected tenancy)
  • International Court of Justice (ICJ), judgment of 26 February 2007 on the application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro)

* All reference to Kosovo, whether to the territory, institutions or population, in this text shall be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo.