Bosnia's top judicial official Milan Tegeltija told N1's Amir Zukic that his arrival to a meeting of Bosnian Serb officials serving in state institutions at which they decided to block the state-level decision-making processes was an “act of a responsible official and head of a judicial institution.”
“I was at the Republika Srpska (RS) entity's National Assembly meeting, at the Federation (FBiH) entity's Parliament meeting, I respect all the legislative bodies,” the head of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC) which appoints and disciplines all judges and prosecutors in the country, told N1.
When asked why he came to the all-Serb meeting convened by the Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik after the Constitutional Court marked several RS laws as unconstitutional, Tegeltija said that his arrival was an act of “a responsible official and head of a judicial institution.”
"I don't understand why this is such a big problem. I'm the head of the HJPC, I represent all the judges and the entire Council. However, When I said I'm the representative of the RS, I meant that I was elected to the HJPC position by RS institutions. Is the RS part of Bosnia? Yes, it is,” Tegeltija responded.
After the 1992-1995 war, Bosnia was sub-divided into two semi-autonomous entities: the Bosniak-Croat shared Federation (FBiH) and the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska(RS), each with their own parliaments, governments and constitutions. However, their constitutions and laws must be in line with the State Constitution which is the basis for their existence.
In mid-February, the RS leadership announced they would not take part in the decision-making process at the state level. The whole thing began after several Bosniak MPs in the RS parliament filed an appeal to the Constitutional Court against the RS Law on Agricultural Land and the RS Law on Inland Navigation, stating that the RS is usurping state competencies and taking the land which belongs to the state.
The Court ruled in favour of the Bosniak MPs' motion, declaring several articles from those laws unconstitutional.
When told that he bears neither moral nor criminal responsibility as the head of the HJPC and that he represents this as independence, Tegeltija said that all HJPC members are criminally responsible just like all Bosnian citizens.
Speaking about the video allegedly showing him and a State police officer taking bribe from a man whose case was pending in the Court, Tegeltija said he feels no shame about that because he never took any money from the man and that the video shows he never had anything to do with the money.
“The man (who allegedly took the money) later apologized to me, saying I had nothing to do with the money. I get asked about cases very often, it's unavoidable. It's perfectly normal that I tell a man who asks me for advice to give me the case number... I had at least 300 such conversations, it's a normal thing,” Tegeltija told N1's Amir Zukic. “When I receive the number, I tell them where they need to go. This is normal and I didn't do anything wrong in this case. You're talking about a construct that was a classic example of fishing.”
Tegeltija added that 15 HJPC members saw no reason to initiate a disciplinary procedure against him in this case.
“Are you saying that all those people are thieves with no integrity,” Tegeltija asked.
In the end, he concluded he sees no reason why he should resign and that he does not plan to leave the office before the end of his mandate in 2022.