Embassies call for investigation into corrupt activities in Bosnian judiciary

NEWS 26.11.2020 19:20
Source: N1

Corrupt activities in judicial institutions need to be addressed and investigated, foreign embassies in Bosnia urged, commenting on the alleged involvement of a top judicial official in a controversial appointment in a local court.

The allegations refer to Milan Tegeltija, the Chairman of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC), the state institution in charge of appointing and disciplining of judicial officials.

According to a local investigative journalism media outlet, he discussed over a phone a possibility of appointing the sister of a former HJPC member in the Banja Luka Basic Court.

The person heard in the audio recording that Istraga.ba website claims to be Tegeltija said the “tactic” for this appointment should be left to him to solve. 

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Commenting on the allegations, the OSCE Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina said it was not in a position to determine the authenticity of the recording.

“In general, any actions that indicate judicial appointments are being decided on the basis of factors other than merit reinforce both the Mission’s findings about the BiH judicial appointment processes, including those evidenced in our recent publication on the judicial response to corruption, “The Impunity Syndrome”, and investigative reporting by numerous journalists and media outlets,” the OSCE Mission told N1.

The mission stressed that “inconsistent appointment procedures, including evidence that appointments sometimes prioritize personal and political connections and the exchange of favours over the demonstration of merit, hinder the efficiency of the judicial system and further erode public trust in institutions.”

“Our assessment is that this situation will not improve without significant changes to the structure, role, and membership of the BiH High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC),” the OSCE’s Sarajevo office said, adding that as the central self-management body to the entire judiciary, the HJPC must “always exercise and demonstrate the highest professional and ethical standards.”

The Mission called on the appropriate authorities to investigate any allegations of corruption and misconduct by any member of the HJPC thoroughly and swiftly, recalling that no one including the most senior officials is above law.

The US Embassy in Sarajevo also commented, recalling that “the integrity and professionalism of HJPC and all other judiciary institutions is crucial.

“All relevant institutions, (particularly the BiH SPO), need to address and investigate allegations of corrupt activities in the judiciary earnestly,” the Embassy tweeted.

A statement issued by the European Union Delegation in Bosnia and Herzegovina said the allegations “cast a shadow on the integrity of the HJPC President, which in turn reflects badly on the HJPC and judiciary as a whole.”

“All judicial office holders must be beyond any reproach. We urge HJPC members to immediately address this crisis and take appropriate action,” said the EU's office.