Every political party in the country has its own loyal state prosecutor and it is in their interest to keep Bosnia’s judiciary the way it is so they can get away with what they do, lawyer Senad Pecanin told N1 on Monday.
Pecanin submitted a request to the board of his Bar Association, asking it to demand the resignation of all members of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC) – the institution overseeing Bosnia’s judiciary – after they expressed support for their President who was captured in a secretly recorded video that suggests he was promising a client to help with his case while a policeman afterwards asked for money allegedly on his behalf.
Pecanin suggested that if the HJPC does not resign, lawyers should go on strike.
He told N1 that the Bar Association in the Federation (FBiH), one of the two semi-autonomous parts of the country, rejected his request the same day he submitted it.
“The Association stated the same day that it held a meeting, a session of the management board and it expressed support for the HJPC unanimously. They dismissed my proposal,” he said.
The Association expressed support for Tegeltija and for the “catastrophic situation into which the judiciary was brought thanks to, primarily, the HJPC which operates for years the way journalist Avdo Avdic revealed,” he said, referring to the journalist who published the controversial video.
But Pecanin also said he wished but did not expect the Association to act differently.
“I’m not naive, nor inexperienced, nor young,” he said. “I believe that it is the duty, a moral and professional duty of lawyers in Bosnia and Herzegovina to do all they can to return the deteriorated trust in the Court and Prosecutor’s Office back to a level all citizens need.”
He said that some renown lawyers are “playing dumb” about the irregularities in the judiciary, while others are “connected to the whole story.”
Protests are the only solution, according to Pecanin, since associations of judges and prosecutors are not doing anything and neither are political leaders.
“We have a situation which fits all political parties,” he said, arguing that political leaders of “more or less all political parties benefit from such a judiciary which won’t sanction them.”
“Every party has its own prosecutors, that has become like a public secret,” he said.
Prosecutors have meanwhile formed a case against Tegeltija but the disciplinary process against him is too slow, Pecanin argued.
The participants of this affair should have been questioned, prosecuted and put in pre-trial detention a long time ago, Pecanin said.
“It seems they are waiting for the public and media interest in the case to die down, that another scandal overshadows this one,” he said.
But Damir Arnaut, a lawmaker from the Union for a Better Future (SBB), said he hopes the Tegeltija affair will trigger a judicial reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina and that not everybody there is corrupt.
“The person in the video, the President of the HJPC, got involved in activities which imply that he does not have the qualities to serve the position. People need to take over responsibility for their actions,” Arnaut said, asking “is there really any public trust in the HJPC in Bosnia?”
“Can you imagine a situation in some well-regulated country in the EU, where the head (of a judicial institution) sits in a bar with his best man and talks about an ongoing case, and then for such a person to remain serving this office?” he asked.
Arnaut said he was surprised with the disciplinary complaint submitted against Tegeltija which was submitted after the video surfaced.
“I am pleasantly surprised it was done that swiftly and that it was thoroughly explained. That is a positive step,” he said.
He complained about the HJPC, saying that the Council expressed support for Tegeltija some time around 9:15 am, while the session only started at 9 am.
“I don’t know if they watched the video, I don’t know what they based their support on. Those who voted should be excluded from the potential procedure in the future,” he said.