Crime and nepotism have encroached on Bosnia’s judicial system and that is why citizens are depressed and keep leaving the country in masses, Bosnia’s Security Minister, who invited citizens to protest in front of the building of Bosnia’s top judicial institution over an alleged corruption scandal, told N1 on Wednesday.
Minister Dragan Mektic called for a protest to take place in front of the State Court and Prosecutor’s Office and building of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJCP), the body which monitors Bosnia’s judiciary, via social media a few days prior.
He told N1 that for him it was primarily important that a “process in which we would finally begin changing key issues in Bosnia” begins.
The initiative came after local investigative news portal ‘Zurnal’ recently published articles which allege that the head of the HJPC, Milan Tegeltija, took a bribe in return for abusing his influence to speed up a case at local courts.
The money was allegedly handed to State Police officer Marko Pandza who acted as a middleman.
Tegeltija adamantly denied any wrongdoing and the HJPC publicly expressed support for him, while prosecutors formed a case to investigate the accusations.
Zurnal then published a secretly recorded video of a meeting between Tegeltija, Pandza and businessman Nermin Alesevic. It appears to be showing Alesevic handing the money to Pandza but does not contain footage of Tegeltija taking it over. Tegeltija cannot be heard asking for any money directly
.After the video was published, Tegeltija told N1 that the footage actually proves his innocence.
But Alesevic told N1 that he recorded the video and that it proves wrongdoing by Tegeltija and that he asked for immunity in any potential proceedings that may arise from the alleged affair.
Mektic called on Tegeltija to resign.
“I think that this basic key issue is a lawful state and the fight against crime and corruption. We have no rule of law and that is why citizens are stripped of their rights, they are not equal, and why today other spheres of social life don’t work,” Mektic said, adding that “crime and nepotism have encroached on that judicial system.”
He said he invited citizens to protest because he does not see any way to change the situation institutionally.
He explained that he did not tend to the organisation of the protest, but that it is a spontaneous gathering, adding that he “will join any civil gathering” but insist on future protests to be legally.
There will likely be more protests like this, he said.
“We will certainly find ways to use this final possibility which is democratic pressure by citizens,” he said, expressing doubt that judicial officials will “become reasonable and understand the messages from the citizens coming from one gathering.”
“They need to understand that citizens are extremely dissatisfied and they need to understand that citizens will not give up on this kind of pressuring until an efficient, lawful, independent and professional judicial system is set up,” he said.
Mektic stressed that the protest was exclusively his idea.
“I am doing this as a citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Me being a Minister or a lawmaker has nothing to do with it. There are no politics behind this, there is nobody else, it is exclusively my idea and I am hoping for and trusting in the citizen’s support exclusively,” he said, adding that he did not consult with his party regarding the protest.
The way the judiciary is behaving towards the state and the rule of law has “crossed every line,” he said, adding that it is the result of the lack of a “system of responsibility” and that in such a situation “organised crime and corruption have taken over decision making.”
“The intention is to show that this situation is unsustainable, that the result of their non-work and their attitude towards the justice system is widespread depression among the people and unfortunately that result can be seen in people massively leaving Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he said.
Mektic said he believes Bosnia “has the capacities and responsible and honest people” who can create conditions for the country to develop its economy normally, including employment of young people “so they see a future here.”
Politics are blocking a structural dialogue in the judiciary as political elites are controlling it, he said, adding that those at the protest will “ask for this HJCP to resign, as in the past seven or eight years it has no capacities to fix the situation in the judiciary.”
The family of Dzenan Memic, a young man whose controversial death in 2016 has never been solved and whose father believes the judiciary in Sarajevo is protecting his son’s killer, also said they will attend the protest.
So did members of the ‘Justice for David’ movement - a group of citizens who have been protesting for more than a year over the unresolved murder of David Dragicevic.
Authorities have erected fences around the seats of the state judicial institutions.