By: Cindy Baker and Harry "IV" Ashton
new advertisement by a major telecommunications company compares
the Internet to Utopia. Through the Internet, the ad claims
racial, ethnic, gender and physical differences are obliterated.
It doesn't matter if you are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, black,
white, male, female, deaf, blind or paralyzedthose twisted
fiber optic cables can't see and don't care.
The ad may overstate
the power of the World Wide Web, but the information superhighway
can cut across boundaries and barriers. In an increasingly interdependent
world, instant access to information can make the difference
between security or peril, growth or collapse, war or peace,
and understanding rather than ignorance. The Internet then becomes
a positive instrument bringing disparate people together for
a common good.
The common good in this case is helping to restore peace to Bosnia
and Herzegovina, a country torn apart by ethnic tensions and
nationalism emanating from the break up of the former Yugoslavia.
Seem lofty and impossible? Some law school faculty, administrators
and students at Chicago-Kent College of Law and the Villanova
University School of Law don't think so. For more than two years,
a student volunteer group led by Chicago-Kent Dean Henry H.
Perritt, Jr. and recent Villanova graduate April Major, have
been utilizing Internet technology to help restore a rule of
law in Bosnia..
During the war, Bosnia became a land where
neighbors suddenly became enemies; where bullets and mortar
shells exploded without warning on residential streets; where
for days there was no electricity, heat or water; where going
to the communal marketplace sometimes ended in death; and where
entire families lived in one room. For Bosnian attorneys, judges,
professors and law students, the elements of a legal infrastructure
which we so often take for granted have been shattered by war.
There, members of the legal community were forced to reform
even the most elementary of legal tasks in an environment where
law books, law libraries, legal records or legal institutions
are merely fading memories.
While the Dayton Accords and an international
military presence have ended the fighting in the region, accomplishing
a strong and lasting peace may prove impossible unless a rule
of law is restored successfully. To that end, Project Bosnia
is waging a new battle. In an effort to rebuild what was lost
in the brutal conflict, citizens from Bosnia and Herzegovina
are working vigorously with student-volunteers from the United
States to reshape the institutions that will anchor a civil
society. Not only are the people of the former Yugoslavia digging
out from the horrors of this conflict, they are constructing
their political, legal and economic systems from scratch.
With the destruction of the old totalitarian order, a democratic,
united Europe committed to market competition is emerging. What
happens in Bosnia is key to how the new world order will define
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 longer exist."
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
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 them to a server in Sarajevo. The nine
judges, three of whom live in other countries, can now communicate
with each other, make decisions and post them without leaving
"Dispute resolution software developed
as part of Project Bosnia can be adapted to the needs of the
Constitutional Court to improve its information flow, thus speeding
up its operation," said April Major, Director of the Center
for Information Law and Policy (CILP). "The justices can
manage their docket much more easily via the Internet."
With Project Bosnia evolving daily, its reach
is not stopping at the borders of the Federation. The project
has spawned the Central and Eastern European Civic Institution
Locator (CEECIL) and the Eastern and Central European Legal
Network (ECEULnet). CEECIL and ECEULnet use the power of the
Internet to connect constitutional courts, human rights institutions
like the Ombudsmen, the press and other civic institutions in
the region. Adapting CILP's Web-based software, the constitutional
courts of Russia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia,
Hungary, Poland, Bosnia and Macedonia can manage cases electronically,
communicate with each other, draft opinions and make them immediately
available to the rest of the world.
To begin implementation of these new initiatives,
a Project Bosnia team returned to Central and Eastern Europe
in 1996. They met with constitutional court justices from Russia,
Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia to advise them about
connecting their courts to the Web and about Internet policy
in general. The team also agreed to adapt a database consisting
of volumes of Russian laws for Internet access.
"Development of constitutional law is
crucial to establishing a rule of law. Its formation works only
if people know how cases have been decided in the past,"
said Dean Perritt. "The courts throughout the region face
similar problems applying constitutional concepts because they
come from civil law traditions where one-party rule dominated.
They need to share their decisions with each other and the world
and draw from the Common Law tradition of the West. That's what
we are doing, helping these countries get their courts and other
legal institutions up and connected using the Internet."
Moreover, notwithstanding its legal applications,
the Internet can play an integral role in supporting a free
and unfettered national press in both Bosnian entities. By tearing
down barriers which restrict the free flow of information to
and from the country, the Internet will function as a global
newsroom, allowing international communities to maintain a watchful
eye over Bosnia while simultaneously providing its citizens
with up-to-date accurate media reports. Thus, with the world
watching, Bosnians can begin rebuilding their infrastructure.
The role of the Internet in Bosnia today,
however, is even more significant given the hostilities that
still simmer beneath the surface there. While fighting in the
region has quieted, the restoration of peace initiated by the
Dayton Accords is contingent upon the availability of, and access
to, unbiased information within the region.
For instance, efforts to implement the Dayton
Peace Accords in Republika Srpska, the Serbian-controlled half
of Bosnia, have been frustrated by opponents of peace who are
using their influence over the media to broadcast messages of
intolerance and anti-Western sentiment. In reaction to this
problem, Project Bosnia has launched a new initiative.
In attempt to circumvent the problems in Republika
Srpska ("RS"), Dean Perritt and a group of Chicago-Kent
student volunteers traveled to the RS city of Banja Luka the
fall of 1997 to lay the groundwork for the installation of the
region's first Internet server. "We are pleased with the
support we have received from the United States Information
Agency and from other agencies of the United States Government
in developing the concepts for the server in Banja Luka and
in arranging transportation for the hardware to the region,"
comments Suzanne Price, a second year law student and Project
Director at Chicago-Kent.
Backed with the support of the United States
Information Agency and with the generous donation of a $25,000
Internet server by Sun Microsystems, Project members are cautiously
optimistic. "Everyone involved is aware of dangers inherent
to this type of mission," says Alex Rozman, one of the
Project's student directors. "There are certainly factions
of people in Bosnia who would like to see our project fail."
With this in mind, project participants are working closely
with supporters in Bosnia to ensure that the project does not
become a victim of the very oppression that it seeks to remedy.
With the global community committed to peace,
however, supporters of Project Bosnia are confident that new
information channels such as the Internet will help support
the Dayton Accords. "Our latest efforts in Rebuplika Srpska
represent an extraordinary opportunity to end-run traditional
channels of communication by utilizing the Internet to provide
a forum to disseminate free and independent information,"
states Will Sadler, Executive Director of Chicago-Kent's Center
for Law and Computers.
"An ombudsman who discovers human rights
violations can use the Internet to exert pressure on the abuser
by mobilizing world opinion," adds IV Ashton, fellow Project
director from Chicago-Kent. "Simply by posting her findings
on the Web, or mailing her findings to our law school so that
we can post them, would alert the global community."
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Project Bosnia began with the donation of a
laptop computer and modem to three law school faculty members
from the University of Sarajevo who visited the Villanova's
School of Law in January of 1996. After a demonstration of the
school's computer and information technology capabilities, the
Bosnian law professors realized the potential importance technology
could have in rebuilding their country.
In the two years since the initial visit from
the Bosnian legal scholars, student involvement has grown tremendously.
Project directors from both schools have focused their collective
energies to develop and maintain a strategic plan to ensure
the success of Project Bosnia. Toward that end, students have
created a Bosnia Home page on the World Wide Web (http://www.project-bosnia.org)
to broadcast the Project's accomplishments. This links Web browsers
to a universe of information regarding the country and its history,
and tells the story of Project Bosnia.
Moreover, student volunteers continuously
work with administrators and faculty from their respective schools
to coordinate various support programs. Students are currently
canvassing local businesses and area law firms seeking either
monetary contributions or donations of personal computers which
are necessary for Bosnian access to the Internet.
"It is impressive that such small group
of people can effectuate substantial change," comments
third-year law student IV Ashton. "When we joined Project
Bosnia, we were just a group of students who wanted to lend
a helping hand. Now, through a lot of hard work and dedication,
we are helping acountry ravaged by war rebuild its infrastructure.
Helping bring stability to Bosnia via the Internet only reinforces
the commitment that we made at the beginning our legal education
to utilize our abilities as future attorneys to assist others."
It is this type of student enthusiasm that
Dean Perritt credits for motivating him. He said his close association
with students is an unusually good example of the mentor/protege
relationship and has become a productive combination. "I'm
not quite the same as I was at 25, not as bold. Students say
`come on, let's call this person, let's contact that organization,'"
Dean Perritt graduated from MIT in 1966 with
a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering and
received a Master in Science degree from MIT's Sloan School
of Management in 1970. In 1975, he received a law degree from
"I think Dean Perritt's experience lends
credibility," comments Alex Rozman, fellow Project Director
and second year student. "His grasp of technology allows
us to be more creative as we apply that technology to
the law. He has worked in Washington and understands
how public policy is made, how the legislative process works
and how senior policy makers operate. He has taught us that
if you don't understand how institutions interact, you marginalize
With these dynamics, Project Bosnia has successfully
created a working environment that is atypical for both students
and administrators. "The project has changed me in that
I have never worked with students in this way before,"
said Dean Perritt. "The intensity is great. When you spend
so much time together inevitably you get to know students in
a much more personal way. We interact as equals and colleagues.
We have come to trust each other and we have formed lasting
Indeed one thing is for certain, no grade
can measure what students and the law school communities are
learning from Project Bosnia. On a technological level, both
schools are committed to exploring various methods to advance
their leadership in Internet research and development as it
applies to legal systems. In fact, as technicians at CILP test
theories pertaining to informational access and exchange, they
are discovering different ways to apply their results to Internet
“The project enhances and expands our school’s
mission. It puts a practical face on the legal learning that
takes place in our classrooms,” Dean Perritt. “It also allows
students to observe first hand how research and policy-making
carried out within our institution can affect the lives of people
thousands of miles away.”
For students, Project Bosnia is teaching personal
as well as legal lessons. Students are finding that they can
call people anywhere in the world -- parliament members or constitutional
court justices -- and people will listen if what they have to
say is worthwhile. “Its amazing, we were sitting at my kitchen
table with a lap top setting up meetings in Moscow with the
Russian Minister of Science, Technology and Forecasting. Looking
back, its hard to believe that we were just a couple law students,”
said Michael Barton, one of Project Bosnia’s original team members.
“The only boundaries are the ones in our minds.”
Why has the Chicago-Kent College of Law taken
on the challenge of helping a former Yugoslav republic recover
from the ravages of war and establish a civil society?
Technology, to name one reason. Chicago-Kent
is uniquely positioned to guide the adaptation of American Internet
experience to Bosnian needs. Aside from Dean Perritt’s scholarship
and contributions to policy development in this area of the
law, the Center for Information Law and Policy (CILP), a joint
venture of Chicago-Kent and Villanova, developed and operates
one of the premier Web sites in the world for legal information
(http://www.cilp.org). Its Federal Web Locator is the most complete
single point of entry for Internet access to the 850 federal
agencies, receiving 25,000 “hits” a week from around the world.
CILP publishes most Supreme Court and Federal Court of Appeals
opinions on the Internet on a daily basis. The Federal Court
Locator has become a major alternative to proprietary systems
like LEXIS and WESTLAW.
Moreover, CILP is the electronic home for
the Virtual Magistrate Project, an online dispute resolution
center. Computer technicians at CILP wrote the software that
allows people to process disputes with an independent arbitrator
using the Internet. The Bosnian Federation Constitutional court
will use a version of this software retooled by CILP to fit
a variety of legal needs.
Additionally, drawing from the university’s
strength in transnational and comparative law, Chicago-Kent’s
Global Law and Policy Initiative (GLAPI) provides a neutral
forum for dialogue among academics, policy makers and business
leaders about critical issues of global policy.
GLAPI recognizes that the academic, diplomatic
and business communities are critical to policy development
in the converging areas of foreign policy, business policy and
international law. The Initiative links key players from all
three communities through conferences, symposia, publications
and Internet exchanges. GLAPI also furnishes students at the
law school with a unique chance to participate in clinical and
In the fall of 1997, GLAPI commenced its inaugural
year by announcing a series of formal presentations, each providing
in-depth analysis of an issue of importance to international
relations and law and each featuring an outstanding speaker
or panel of speakers. In September, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke,
the architect of the historic Dayton Accords, delivered an address
on Collective Security as a Foundation for Trade: NATO, the
U.N., and Peace Enforcement in Bosnia and Cyprus.
There is also the long-standing involvement
of the American Bar Association’s Central and Eastern European
Law Initiative (CEELI). For a number of years now, several faculty
members at Chicago-Kent have aided countries emerging from communism
establish their own legal systems by helping draft federal constitutions,
enhance legal education through exchange programs and advise
fledgling nations on legal processes. As one example, Bartram
Brown, a professor of International Human Rights, spent the
1995-96 academic year at the Hague, where he served as a special
consultant to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former
Finally, in December 1997, Charles Rudnick
joined the administration at Chicago-Kent College of Law as
Assistant Dean for International Law and Policy Development,
and as a policy fellow. Previously, Mr. Rudnick served for two
years as the ABA CEELI representative in Sarajevo.
This natural progression Chicago-Kent College
of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology, to mesh its technological
know-how with their international outreach capabilities.