GoJIL Vol. 6, No. 2 (2014)
The ‘Bonn Powers’ of the High Representative in Bosnia Herzegovina: Tracing a Legal Figment
The article traces the legal basis of the so-called ‘Bonn Powers’ that are claimed by the Office of the High Representative (OHR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) as the basis for its extensive legislative, judicative, and executive decisions. The OHR’s presence in BiH offers a very controversial example of how international institutions may exercise international public authority. The OHR has attracted far-reaching criticism and it has in fact been argued that its practice of adopting binding decisions runs contra to the main purpose of the civilian international presence in BiH. The contribution offers an analysis that substantiates such criticism on legal grounds. It discusses exemplary OHR decisions that reach far into the legislative, the executive, and the judicial domain of BiH and analyses possible legal sources for the broad powers claimed by the OHR. It explores the limits of the OHR’s original mandate in light of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties and it looks at the implied powers doctrine as a basis for the OHR’s claims. It also considers a conferral of the ‘Bonn Powers’ on behalf of the United Nations Security Council. The article concludes that the ‘Bonn Powers’ do not qualify as a legal power and that their existence is merely a powerful, but delusive legal fiction.
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