|With the destruction of the old totalitarian order, a
Europe committed to market competition is emerging. What happens in Bosnia
is key to how the new world order will define itself.
Dean Perritt believes that Internet technologies, developed over the years
by young people at many institutions of higher learning and honed by faculty,
staff and students, can help rebuild Bosnian law libraries, law schools,
the court system and legislative processes. In other words, a virtual legal
infrastructure will replace mortar, bricks and paper. From that belief Project
Bosnia was borna student-run, grass roots initiative of global proportions.
"The free flow of information breeds truth and affects change," said Dean
Perritt, one of the country's leading scholars on the synergy between information
technology and the law. "Before citizens can bring about change, they must
be heard. Affording a voice expedites the healing process. Information technology
can amplify that voice."
Dean Perritt served as Deputy Undersecretary of Labor and was a member of
the White House staff during the Ford Administration. He also served as a
presidential adviser on Internet policy in the Bush and Clinton Administrations.
Six years ago, he developed a plan for putting government agencies on the
information superhighway for the Clinton transition team.
Just how can the Internet play a role in restoring the rule of law? According
to Project Bosnia co-founder Stuart Ingis, the Internet is the ideal tool
for implementing change in Bosnia. "The idea behind Project Bosnia is that
to have a civil society, the legal community must be able to exchange
information. Bosnia needs to rebuild its infrastructure and the Internet
is the most efficient and inexpensive way to
|do that," says Mr. Ingis, who
traveled to Central and Eastern
Europe three times while a law student at Villanova.
For a number of years, the Internet has been revolutionizing the legal system
in the United States. Most current federal appellate court opinions are available
to anyone through the World Wide Web. More state courts are putting their
decisions online. Federal and state agencies use the Web and e-mail to broaden
citizen participation in rulemaking.
Law students and professors exchange views and publish their work through
hundreds of email exchanges, news groups and Web-based discussion forums.
Lawyers and clients even go online to settle disputes.
"Information technology already enhances our legal institutions," said Dean
Perritt. "Imagine the impact of the Internet in Bosnia, where the traditional
ways of obtaining information like law libraries and printing presses no
In addition to a law library that houses thousands of paper books or a courthouse
that contains legal records and court decisions, a single desktop
|computer linked to another computer
anywhere in the world can
access pertinent legal information essential to professionals, government
officials and judges. Yet, aside from connecting to the outside world, the
Internet can also link members of the Bosnian legal community to each other.
Thus, by providing immediate access to their own judicial opinions and newly
drafted laws, Bosnians will be able to quickly rebuild their legal system.
"An Internet-based infrastructure is crucial to the kind of information exchange
that is the life blood of day-to-day operations of parliamentary institutions,
courts, Ombudsmen (the international group charged with monitoring human
rights violations) and the bar within Bosnia," said Dean Perritt.
Eventually, the Internet will play a role in dispute resolution. With thousands
of people dislocated by the war and with real property and boundaries in
dispute, the World Wide Web becomes a global courtroom, covering larger distances
and broader constituencies. For instance, Project Bosnia, through a $50,000
grant from the Soros Foundation, has equipped the justices of the Federation
Constitutional Court with Pentium computers and linked
Team members bid farewell before embarking on a trip to Bosnia.