Matthew Parish

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For the British former Conservative MP and journalist see Matthew Parris.
Matthew Parish

Matthew Parish is a lawyer and scholar of international relations, ethnic conflict and civil war. He is best known for his writings about the politics of the western Balkans, in particular his prediction of the secession of Republika Srpska from Bosnia and Herzegovina and his criticisms of the international community's presence in the country. His writings have been the subject of widespread commentary in the national and international press, both supportive and critical.


Parish is an international lawyer, the Managing Partner of Gentium Law Group [1] an international arbitration practice with offices in Ankara, Fribourg, Geneva, Istanbul, London and Moscow. He was formerly Chief Legal Adviser to the International Supervisor of Brčko District, a region of northern Bosnia and Herzegovina run as a protectorate by the US Government since 1997. He previously worked in the legal department of the World Bank. He is an English barrister and a New York attorney, and teaches at the University of Geneva. Parish was elected as a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum in 2013[2] and has also been named as one of the 300 most influential people in Switzerland by Bilan Magazine.[3]

In May 2012 it was reported that Parish was representing the Serbian businessman Stanko Subotic in a libel action in London's High Court.[4][5]

Writings on Balkan politics[edit]

Shortly after leaving Bosnia in 2007, Parish wrote "The Demise of the Dayton Protectorate",[6] which became front page news in Bosnia and Herzegovina.[7][8] The piece accused the international community of running post-war Bosnia as a colony, and predicted that the Office of the High Representative (OHR), the country's post-war governor, would soon collapse. This article subsequently became cited in the state-building literature,[9][10][11] and was said to be a catalyst for disintegration of the country's international governing structure.[12] Republika Srpska, the Serb-dominated half of the country, relied upon the article to argue for closure of OHR.[13][14]

Parish's most significant controversy arose when in 2009 he published "Republika Srpska: After Independence",[15][16] which predicted secession of Republika Srpska from the rest of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was immediately front page news in Bosnia's biggest selling daily,[17] and was the subject of damning editorial criticism.[18] Valentin Inzko, the High Representative, appeared on national television and in the national press, describing the article as "extremely irresponsible".[19] The piece also attracted international attention in connection with Kosovo's declaration of independence.[20]

Parish has written a commentary criticizing the 22 July 2010 decision of the International Court of Justice declaring Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence to be lawful,[21] which he attacks as irrational and exhibiting judicial partiality. He also considers the implications of the ruling for the attempted secession of Republika Srpska, and his comments have been seized upon by RS Prime Minister Milorad Dodik.[22]

Parish's book on reconstruction in post-war Bosnia, "A Free City in the Balkans",[23] has attracted national attention.[24] The book has been described as "telling the story of the successes wrought by innovative policy and the dangers of premature disengagement" and a "damning critique of the role and the actions of the OHR and the state-building attempts by the international community [that] can make for uncomfortable reading".[25] The book has been criticized for being too skeptical of the international community's statebuilding efforts in the country.[26]

While Parish purports to provide a critique of the international community's activities in the Balkans, at least one commentator has referred to his views as "colonialist."[27] Parish writes occasional columns for the Sarajevo-based newspaper Oslobodjenje and for Balkan Insight.

Parish spoke to the UN General Assembly in April 2013 in a controversial meeting organized by its then President Vuk Jeremic.[28]

Constructivism in international relations[edit]

Parish's book "Mirages of International Justice",[29] advances a constructivist account of international law. He thinks sovereign states would never agree to create genuinely impartial and independent international courts that would enforce international law against themselves. Thus international courts are deliberately made powerless, and they occupy precarious roles in the balance of power in which they are liable to make decisions in accordance with Great Power interests. International tribunals proliferate not because states want to see international justice done but because they want to associate themselves with the ideals captured in discourse about international law without making any real commitments. The world of international relations remains an anarchy, but international courts (and indeed international organizations in general) are part of an illusion that the world is ordered in accordance with moral principles.

Parish has been a major and controversial critic of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and international criminal law in general.[30][31][32]

Other academic works[edit]

Parish has written a number of other academic and scholarly articles, including:

  • An Essay on the Accountability of International Organizations[33]
  • International Officials[34]
  • On Necessity[35]
  • Why are developing world private finance contracts so difficult to get right?[36]

Education and background[edit]

Parish is a graduate of Christ's College, Cambridge and the University of Chicago Law School, where he obtained his doctorate. From 2009 to 2010 he was a Fellow at the British Institute of International and Comparative Law. He is originally from Yorkshire.


  1. ^ Gentium Law Group
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Bilan, 17 April 2013
  4. ^ Ratko Knežević pred sudom u Londonu. (2012-05-31). Retrieved on 2012-06-14.
  5. ^ Issue 1301 Page 30 11 November 2011.
  6. ^ Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding December 2007. Retrieved on 2012-06-14.
  7. ^ Glas Srpske 12 June 2008. Retrieved on 2012-06-14.
  8. ^ Nezavisne Novine 21 July 2008[dead link]
  9. ^ Sylvie Rammell, Status 13:10 (2008),
  10. ^ Arvanitopoulous and Tzifakis, Eur. View 7:15 (2008)
  11. ^ Gordon Bardos, National Interest, Balkanizing Barack, 21 January 2009. (2009-01-21). Retrieved on 2012-06-14.
  12. ^ Heinrich Böll Foundation, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Controversies of the EU Integration Process (Sarajevo 2008)
  13. ^ RS Government Report on the Situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. (PDF) . Retrieved on 2012-06-14.
  14. ^ Speech by Milorad Dodik to the RS National Assembly, 13 October 2008
  15. ^ Balkan Insight, 19 November 2009. Retrieved on 2012-06-14.
  16. ^ Transconflict Magazine, November 2009. (2009-11-24). Retrieved on 2012-06-14.
  17. ^ Sead Numanovic, "Skandalozno: Dodik vodi RS prema nezavisnosti, a BiH prema raspadu Nekadašnji visoki službenik OHR-a sugerira međunarodnoj zajednici da prihvati nezavisnost RS", Dnevni Avaz, 21 November 2009, copy available here [2]
  18. ^ Sead Numanovic, "Perišov opasni dim", Dnevni Avaz 22 November 2009, available at [3]
  19. ^ Valentin Inzko, Istraga u vezi sa shemama bit će gotovo za desetak dana,, 24 November 2009
  20. ^ Ian Bancroft, the Trouble with Independence, the Guardian, 7 December 2009. Guardian (2008-05-29). Retrieved on 2012-06-14.
  21. ^ Balkan Insight, 28 July 2010. Retrieved on 2012-06-14.
  22. ^ Nova Srpska Politicka Misao, Interview with Milorad Dodik, 5 August 2010. Retrieved on 2012-06-14.
  23. ^ Matthew Parish, "A Free City in the Balkans: Reconstructing a Divided Society in Bosnia" (London: I.B.Tauris 2009)
  24. ^ Muharem Bazdulj, Brcko kao Gdanjsk ili Trst, Oslobodjenje, 20 March 2010
  25. ^ Kenneth Morrison, Balkan Insight 15 June 2010. Retrieved on 2012-06-14.
  26. ^ Jelena Subotic, Nationalities Papers, 38(3):440 (May 2010)
  27. ^ Jasmin Mujanovic, "An Open Letter to Matthew Parish: Colonialist Clairvoyant?", Politics Re-Spun. Retrieved on 2012-06-14.
  28. ^ Diana Johnstone, "Neither Justice nor Reconciliation", Counterpunch 17 April 2013
  29. ^ Matthew Parish, "Mirages of International Justice: The Elusive Pursuit of a Transnational Legal Order" (London: Edward Elgar 2011)
  30. ^ United Nations General Assembly Thematic Debate on International Criminal Justice, 10 April 2013, UN Doc GA/11355
  31. ^ Transconflict 2 May 2013
  32. ^ International Justice: Progress or Mirage? Edward Elgar publishing, 10 August 2012
  33. ^ Available on the Social Science Research Network. Retrieved on 2012-06-14.
  34. ^ Available on the Social Science Research Network. Retrieved on 2012-06-14.
  35. ^ Journal of World Investment and Trade 11(2) (April 2010)
  36. ^ Oil Gas and Energy Law Reporter 5(2) (April 2007)

External links[edit]