No parliament at any government level in Bosnia governs over the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC), the head of Bosnia’s top judicial institution said on Tuesday while a lawmaker requested that the House of Representatives holds a session where the state of the judiciary would be discussed.
The HJCP is the judicial body which names and disciplines judges and prosecutors in Bosnia.
None of 39 MPs who attended the Thursday session of the House of Representatives backed the 2017 and 2018 reports on the work of the HJPC, with 31 of them voting against and eight abstaining from the vote.
HJCP President Milan Tegeltija was not present at the session. He was on vacation.
MP Mirjana Marinkovic Lepic on Tuesday asked for a new House of Representatives session.
“The HJCP, led by Milan Tegeltija, has jeopardised the independence of the judiciary. The Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina is trying to return its credibility,” Marinkovic Lepic said.
“The mission of the HJCP is to ensure a professional, independent and unbiased judiciary with the goal of every citizen having equal access to justice and being treated equally before the law. There is not one citizen in Bosnia who believes that the HJCP, with its current composition, is able to turn that mission into action,” she said.
The HJCP has come under fire throughout the past year after numerous officials accused it of corruption. Citizens even protested in front of the institution, demanding that Tegeltija and other HJCP members resign.
Marinkovic Lepic mentioned “numerous other corruption cases” and “cases regarding the submission of property records by judicial officials,” as well as the procedures for evaluating the work and naming judges and prosecutors as reasons for the negative perception of the HJCP in the public.
She went on to point out that some international community organisations, such as the OSCE, the US Embassy and the EU Delegation have also expressed concern for the HJCP and the problems within it are best described in a report on Bosnia's judiciary which independent EU legal expert Reinhard Priebe put together recently.
Tegeltija told N1 on Tuesday that the House of Representatives vote was nothing new.
“To the contrary, this is the regular practice of the House of Representatives of Bosnia’s Parliament throughout the past few years, which shows their approach toward the HJCP. If I remember correctly, not one MP in the House of Representative supported the report of the HJCP last year, nor the one before that, so we are not talking about anything new when we talk about the House of Representatives,” Tegeltija told N1.
The report is supposed to inform the parliaments of all levels of government about the work of the HJCP, he explained, adding that this also includes the parliaments of the two semi-autonomous entities, the Federation (FBiH) and Republika Srpska (RS).
“The House of Representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina is in no way superior to the HJCP. To the contrary, it is just one of the legislative bodies which are being informed of the work of the HJCP,” he said.
He added that the entity parliaments did express support for the HJCP report, but that none of those decisions have any significance as “they don't produce any consequences because the judiciary is independent of the legislative and executive government at all government levels in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
Tegeltija argued that the decision of the state House of Representatives should not be any more important than the decisions of parliaments of the two entities in the country, especially since representatives of the same parties sit in all those parliaments.
But others, such as the Head of the Compliance & Ethics Association, Bojan Bajic, see it differently. He argued that “the Parliament represents the citizens.”
“So the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina have not voted for that report. The response by the Head of the HJCP is the pinnacle of the anti-democratic culture we live in, where so many baseless and nonsensical statements are expressed and the Head of the HJCP denying the role of the Parliament represents disrespect for the citizens,” Bajic said.
He argued that, although Milan Tegeltija is a pure example of this problem of the society, he is “not to blame for everything.”
“I think that Milan Tegeltija is only a consequence of the overall culture which I like to call the ‘deep justice’ phenomenon,” he said, explaining that this refers to a system where “a large part of the judiciary lives in a cultural, socialist defect” which implies “avoiding personal responsibility and believing that to be some kind of collective agreement.”
“It is a culture where members of the HJCP have nothing against Milan Tegeltija making such anti-democratic statements,” he said, adding that this is prevalent among associations of judges and prosecutors as well in the country and one of the effects of such an approach implies a “culture of bowing to authorities, the way we used to live before, a culture where you may never go against the state.”