Bosnia’s top judicial institution concluded on Thursday that its president "should consider resigning" after local media published a recording that allegedly appears to prove his involvement in influence-peddling, as the allegations have "damaged relations with all international partners."
The Istraga.ba investigative journalism portal released an audio recording last week which allegedly features the head of Bosnia’s High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HCP), Milan Tegeltija, discussing the possibility of naming the sister of former HJCP member, Miljana Buha, as a judge in a Banja Luka court.
The HJPC is the institution that appoints judicial officials in Bosnia.
According to Istraga.ba, Buha insisted on the appointment of her sister, Sanja Cegar, and Tegeltija can allegedly be heard saying that the “tactic” should be left to him.
Both Tegeltija and Buha denied the allegations in statements for N1, arguing that the recording proves the opposite – that they agreed such an appointment would be a conflict of interest.
The HJCP discussed during its session on Thursday only one topic – the current situation in light of the allegations.
“The HJPC notes that illegal recording violates the security and the environment for independent decision-making. The HJPC requests from all bodies, especially the Prosecutor's Office, to react promptly. At this time, the HJPC cannot comment on the responsibility of the President based on the content published in the media,” the institution said.
However, “given that all this has damaged relations with all international partners, which significantly complicates the work of the HJPC, we call on the President to consider resigning,” it concluded.
The Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC SB), an international organisation composed of foreign ambassadors which monitors Bosnia’s peace, called on Bosnian authorities to implement reforms related to rule of law and the fight against corruption.
Meanwhile, an ad-hoc parliamentary commission asked the Council of Ministers to take steps to fix the shortcomings outlined in an OSCE report about the country’s response to corruption.
Bosnia’s international administrator, tasked with overseeing the civilian implementation of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, also called on the head of the HJPC to resign.
Among those who voted for Tegeltija to consider resigning was HJCP member Slavo Lukic.
“Please, accept your part of the responsibility as president,” he said, adding that by doing so, he would “contribute to the stability of the institution.”
HJCP member Monika Mijic did not want to discuss the recording but said she was concerned about the statements from the European Union, the United States and the Office of the High Representative.
“I’m afraid that it is clear from their views that our president has lost their confidence for various reasons, they have expressed a desire for a new president,” she said.
However, she also expressed concern about the illegal recording of judicial officials and repeated the position of the Association of Judges of Bosnia’s Republika Srpska (RS) entity, who said that such practices could jeopardise the independence of the judiciary.
Judge Kees van der Weide, an EU advisor to the HJCP, also said that the most logical thing would be for Tegeltija to resign in order to protect the interests of the institution.
According to HJCP member Lejla Hadzic, the affair has made it impossible for the institution to perform its duties.
“Our international partners have always helped us. I believe that in order to maintain efficiency and restore the trust of the citizens, the president of the HJPC must resign,” she said.
Tegeltija repeated his earlier claims that Bosnia Intelligence Security Agency and people connected to it were spying on him and that the recording was edited and published as a result of long-term illegal monitoring. He called the allegations against him “lies” and accused other members of the HJCP of influence peddling.
After the session, however, he said that he was also among those who voted for the request for him to consider resigning.