Foreign embassies in Bosnia expressed concern on Friday over the recent events that have brought in the spotlight Bosnia's High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC), the state-level body overseeing the work of the judiciary, and urged competent institutions to hold responsible those who allegedly committed wrongdoing.
The joint statement signed by the embassies of the UK, the USA, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain alongside the Office of the High Representative and OSCE Mission in Bosnia has come amid an ongoing affair allegedly involving top judicial official, HJPC President Milan Tegeltija.
Tegeltija was recently captured in a secretly recorded video that suggests he was promising a client to help with this case at a local court, while a state police officer afterwards asked for money in return, allegedly on Tegeltija's behalf.
The video was published by local investigative media outlet Zurnal.info and Tegeltija dismissed all accusations, calling them malicious.
In a statement for N1, he said the video proves his innocence.
The state prosecutors opened a case to investigate the allegations and the HJPC's Disciplinary Counsel filed a complaint against Tegeltija.
The complaint was dismissed, which “alarmed” the embassies in Bosnia.
“No one should be above the law. This holds especially true for the members of the judiciary, whose integrity is a prerequisite for upholding the rule of law,” they stressed, calling on the HJPC to “hold responsible any judicial office holder who is alleged to have committed wrongdoing.”
According to the embassies, allegations of improper conduct or corruption against the Council members demand complete and thorough investigations.
“The law on the HJPC does not provide for impunity. On the contrary, it clearly provides many possibilities by which the President of the HJPC should be held accountable, including by disciplinary proceedings. In fact, the function of President of the HJPC requires even stricter adherence to the ethical principles guiding the conduct of judges and prosecutors, as this individual holds a great responsibility in upholding judicial impartiality and independence across the entire country,” said the joint statement.
Failure to uphold professional standards imperils the independence of the judiciary and it undermines the work of professional and ethical judges, the embassies emphasised. They encouraged the Council to fulfil its function under the law and ensure that all members are accountable to the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina.