In its latest report the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Bosnia and Herzegovina, OSCE, says that pressure on the work of judicial institutions goes beyond “acceptable criticism” and that accusations that war-crimes trials are motivated by ethnic affiliation are groundless.
“These statements exceed the limits of acceptable criticism and represent an inappropriate interference with the work of the judiciary. As confirmed by the State War Crimes Processing Strategy, prioritising trials of individuals responsible for the gravest and most complex crimes, rather than reaching an ethnic balance, will guide the work of the prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” according to the report, entitled Independence of the Judiciary: Inappropriate Pressure against Judicial Institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The State War Crimes Processing Strategy, adopted in December 2008, foresees that all trials pertaining to nearly 10,000 unsolved cases registered before courts in Bosnia and Herzegovina will be completed within the next 15 years.
As stated in the report, pressure on state-level judicial institutions comes from various circles and is designed to bring the work of judicial institutions into question and obstruct judicial reform.
For instance, when the report of the State Prosecution’s work in 2008 was presented to the House of Representatives and House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina, some Serb delegates criticised its work claiming that it “tries war crimes committed by Serbs only”.
With the aim of protecting and enhancing the independence of judicial institutions, the OSCE has presented its recommendations to political representatives, whom it calls on to desist from “inappropriate influence or pressure” and attacks on the reputation and integrity of the judiciary.
The Mission says the independence of judicial institutions and the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council, HJPC, should be embedded in the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, while the HJPC should determine a consistent practice for protecting the bearers of judicial functions from “inappropriate pressure with the aim of protecting and enhancing the independence of judicial institutions”.
The OSCE Mission expressed concern over statements pertaining to the work of the State Court and its Prosecution in 2009, because these statements are based on “unsupported evidence and exceed the limits of acceptable criticism”. However, the Report indicates that last year’s reduction of budget allocations to these institutions cannot be interpreted as putting pressure on them.
“Although there is no doubt that further reduction of current capacities of the state judiciary would have serious negative consequences on its capacity to try complex criminal cases, there are no indications that the budgetary reductions imposed last year were used as a tool for putting pressure or influencing the work of the state judicial institutions,” the OSCE says.
Meddzida Kreso, President of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, warned several times in 2009 that reducing the budget for the state judicial institutions would bring the continuation of their work into question. At the beginning of January 2010 the budget, securing resources for recruitment of nine new judges, was adopted, thus enabling “the uninterrupted functioning” of the institution.
The OSCE expressed its regret over the decision to reduce the number of international staff members at the Section for Organised Crime and Corruption, which, it said, accentuated the need for “respecting and protecting the judicial system’s independence from political forces in the country and offering support by the international community to the work of judicial bodies at the state level”.
In December 2009 Valentin Inzko, the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, extended the mandate of international judges and prosecutors working in the war-crimes section of the State Court and its prosecution by three years. As per Inzko’s Decision, judges and prosecutors employed with the section for Organised Crime and Corruption “can continue working as advisors”.