Protecting the Rights of the Accused
Odsjek Krivične Odbrane (OKO) is the criminal defence section of the Sector for legal aid of the BiH Ministry of Justice. It is a unique institution in international criminal law which is designed to ensure the highest standards of defence in domestic war crimes trials.
OKO provides legal and administrative support to individual advocates defending cases before the Court of BiH, as well as a detailed training programme for lawyers and those involved in the trial process. OKO also conducts other activities in the legal community in order to ensure widespread dissemination of information about war crimes in the region and also support for the legal profession.
OKO is housed at 15 Skenderija in the centre of Sarajevo, separate from the Ministry and Court buildings. There is a team of some 15 staff made up of the Director, 5 lawyers from BiH, 5 pripravnik (trainee) lawyers, 2 OKO Fellows and several legal associates. They are assisted by a legal administrative assistant and a special projects assistant.
OKO provides expert legal advice to advocates defending war crimes cases. Within OKO there are four 'Tim za Podrsku Odbrani' (TPOs) or defence support teams covering four geographical regions in BiH. Each TPO is made up of lawyers, pripravniks and OKO Fellows with specialist knowledge on the legal and factual issues that arise in that area. The TPOs provide legal advice on international criminal law, international human rights law and criminal procedure. Members of the TPO also provide court room support to individual advocates.
OKO employs legal associates who are lawyers with previous experience in international criminal law in order to ensure that the defence can match the international prosecutors at the Court. Legal Associates are employed on short term contracts to deal with specific legal issues, within a TPO or to assist on specific cases.
Advocates who are not from Sarajevo are able to use workspace and equipment within the OKO office, and any advocate can visit the office in order to use the library and electronic research facilities.
OKO also administers the application process by which lawyers are admitted to the list of advocates licensed to practice before the Court of BiH.
There is a detailed training programme organised by OKO, for purposes of admission of licensed advocates, for continuing professional training obligations and also to provide specialist training on other areas of law and trial procedure.