EU Special Representative Ambassador Johann Sattler noted Wednesday that the EU Delegation does not see enough reform in Bosnia's top judicial body for the money the EU invested for this matter.
While acknowledging the longstanding relationship between the EU and the HJPC, thanks notably to the EU’s financial and technical assistance since 2004, Ambassador Sattler highlighted disappointment with the lack of progress in the reporting period, particularly related to the judiciary.
He called upon the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council, a body that controls and appoints judges and prosecutors in the country, to urgently address the current situation, in particular, to regain the public’s trust in the judiciary and to ensure its integrity, independence and accountability. He noted that these aspects are not sufficiently anchored in the judiciary.
“This must change,” stressed the Ambassador.
He pointed out the European Commission's Report on Bosnia is very clear about the urgent need to implement a robust and independent system of integrity checks for all judicial officeholders. In order to meet the expectations of citizens, such checks should be complemented by external scrutiny.
To allow for these changes to take place, the Law on the HJPC needs to be amended urgently. Any delays in this regard this will only harm the country on its EU path, EU Special Representative stated.
But aside from these legislative reforms, the HJPC members need to work proactively and lead by example. In this context, Ambassador Sattler reiterated the words of Senior EU rule of law expert Reinhard Priebe, who called for a “shift in judicial culture”.
“It is high time to initiate this shift. The first step in this direction is establishing a professional and sustainable Integrity Unit within the HJPC Secretariat, to which the Council has committed itself,” the Head of the EU Delegation to Bosnia said.
He thanked the Council for swiftly responding to the concerns of the Central Election Commission by adopting instructions about the prioritization of election fraud cases during the forthcoming electoral period.
This is a sign of problem-awareness that the Council needs to show more often to the public, he concluded.