For immediate release
August 14, 1996
A delegation from the Villanova Center for Information Law and Policy at the Villanova University School of Law, near Philadelphia, concluded a week of meetings in Bosnia-Herzogovina on Friday, aimed at builidng Internet links for legal and civic institutions. The "Project Bosnia" group is seeking to connect judges, government officials, lawyers, journalists, law schools and ordinary citizens through personal computers and the worldwide computer network called the Internet. In this way, they believe a Rule of Law and Civil Society can be built more quickly in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The visit was organized by the American Bar Association's Central and East European Law Initiative (CEELI), supported by U.S.A.I.D.
In meetings with representatives of the judiciary, the Minister of Justice, the press, faculties of law and economics, and with the bar in Sarajevo, Zenica, and Tuzla, the Project Bosnia group received unequivocal support for their analyses of the prospects for Internet legal connections, based on logic summarized by the delegation leader, law professor Henry H. Perritt, Jr.: "All legal institutions must process and transfer information. Doing this through conventional libraries and printed materials is more difficult in Bosnia-Herzegovina because of the war's destruction. Modern information technology can bridge the gap, and it also represents an opportunity for Bosnia to leapfrog a generation of older technologies. In order to make this happen, computers must be put in the hands of persons writing legal decisions such as judgments, statutes and Government orders, and those computers must be connected. By connecting them to the Internet, they are instantly connected to the World." The group, however, run into some problems later.
"Already," said Project Manager Stuart P. Ingis, "Project Bosnia has collected more than 100 computers in the United States, and shipped an initial allotment to specific legal, press, and university recipients in Bosnia-Herzogovina. The Project has adapted Internet software already in use in the U.S. to automate information flows and deliberations of the Federation Constitutional Court, to assist the court in becoming fully operational despite the lack of a single location from which its judges operate, and the absence of an established process for managing its docket and handling the flow of paper submissions. It has mounted an "adopt a judge or ombudsman" initiative, aimed at financing the purchase of modern computers for the judges of the Constitutional Court and ombudsmen, and associated network hardware and software and Internet connections." The Project team also learned of significant shipments of computers, which had been delivered but not put in use when the war broke out. These computers now would be considered underpowered, but the Project Bosnia team promised to work with judicial and government institutions to use them most effectively in a broader computer networking strategy.
Project Bosnia includes an education and training component, comprising an exchange program with Bosnian universities for faculty and students, two workshops in Bosnia-Herzogovina designed to train legal professionals from different geographical regions, and sponsorship for other legal professionals to visit the United States to build on prior successful visits aimed at building civic and legal institutions. One member of the delegation, Michael R. Haswell, said "A critical element of early implementation of Project Bosnia is the establishment and full operation of multiple Internet Service Providers (ISPs)-- services that connect individual user computers and modems to the Internet."
The Project Bosnia group met with the Director of the Bosnia-Herzogovina PTT, urging him to open up telephone access to ISPs and to allow ISPs to provide Internet connectivity without burdensome restrictions. Recognizing that Bosnia may make different choices from the United States and Western Europe with respect to telecommunications markets in general, the Project representatives argued that markets for Internet access can be opened up, even if markets for telephone service are more tightly controlled by the PTT. Such an approach can relieve already-stressed PTT resources and allow them to be focused on rebuilding and enhancing the basic telephone and general communications infrastructure. "Allowing private enterprise into the ISP market can hasten broad Internet connectivity and open opportunities for private-sector job development focused on good, high-paying technology jobs," said delegation member William J. Sauers.
The President of the Judges' Association, noted the consistency between the Project and her goal of "getting all judges connected to each other and to the broader legal community of the world." University of Sarajevo Law Faculty Dean Cazin Sandikovic, noted the Internet's relationship with the trend toward "unification of law throughout the world." The Vice President of the Constitutional Court, Mirko Boskovic, joined in the meeting by Justices Milan Bajic and Katarina Mandic expressed enthusiasm for the Project's work to develop an Internet-based system for the Court. Minister of Justic Mato Tadic noted how the Internet can strengthen the functioning of the increasing number of international institutions that play a growing role legal affairs throughout the World and are so prominent in the rebuilding of Bosnia-Herzogovina. The delegation members also offered some more general observations about their visit. Mr. Ingis noted "Project Bosnia aims at creation of a Rule of Law. Technology is not enough to ensure a rule of law. Peace also is necessary. We learned how important it is that consideration be given to extending the IFOR mandate to ensure that peace holds."
The Project Bosnia delegation is composed of Henry H. Perritt, Jr., Professor of Law at the Villanova University School of Law, and director of the Project (firstname.lastname@example.org); Stuart P. Ingis, project manager (email@example.com); Michael R. Haswell (firstname.lastname@example.org), technology leader; William J. Sauers, foreign relations leader (email@example.com). Professor Perritt served on President Clinton's transition team, is a consultant to the European Commission and the Irish Attorney General on matters relating to the Internet and public information, and has written extensively on the Internet, public information policy and computer and telecommunications law.