The Association of Judges in the Bosniak-Croat majority part of Bosnia condemned on Friday recent statements by one of the top judicial officials in the country who accused the US Embassy of interfering with Bosnia’s judiciary.
Ruzica Jukic, who is the Vice-President of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC), the body that monitors the work of Bosnian courts and appoints prosecutors and judges, objected to a meeting between US Ambassador Eric Nelson and the Assistant Administrator for USAID’s (United States Agency for International Development) Bureau for Europe and Eurasia, Brock Bierman, and representatives of Bosnia’s judiciary.
During the meeting last week, Nelson and Bierman discussed potential changes of the law on the HJPC which regulates the election of judges with HJPC member Goran Nezirovic, State Court Judge Branko Peric and Chief Prosecutor in the Tuzla Canton, Tomislav Ljubic. The goal of the meeting was to ensure a more transparent election process for judicial officials which would strengthen rule of law in the country, according to the US Embassy.
In an interview for N1, Jukic said it was “baffling that any embassy” discusses the law with any member of the HJPC.
“No embassy has the right to interfere in the election process of the chief prosecutor or any other judicial position, nor to impose its solutions,” Jukic said.
Jukic’s statement represents “a reckless and inappropriate move by a judge who, as a member of the HJPC, needs to advocate for the strengthening of the judiciary and its independence and to support the help of any well-intentioned party towards achieving those goals,” the Association of Judges in Bosnia’s Federation (FBiH) entity said in a press release.
This is only one of the many examples of support the US Government provided for Bosnia’s judicial officials to “work on the improvement of professional capacities in order to create an independent, impartial and professional judiciary,” it said.
“That especially came into focus with the adoption of the Law on the HJPC, which resulted in the independent body (HJPC) which had the goal to prevent political influence in the process of electing and naming judges and prosecutors, to provide judges and prosecutors a fair and just disciplinary procedure, as well as a procedure to remove them from the judge and prosecutor post,” it added.
The Association also said that public trust in the judiciary in Bosnia has decreased, stressing that the HJPC is “more than anyone else” responsible for that.
It added that it supports a stronger engagement of the European Commission, the embassies of the USA, the UK, Germany, France “and all well-intentioned foreign and domestic parties” in the process of improving Bosnia’s judiciary, “especially in the wide discussion on the Law on the HJPC.”