News 05 Jun 17

Bosnian Judge Faces Censure for War Crimes Comments

A judicial disciplinary committee began a case against a Serb state-level judge for publicly alleging that Sarajevo lacks the political will to prosecute Bosnian Army generals for war crimes.

Admir Muslimovic
Branko Peric at the hearing on Monday. Photo: BIRN.

The Bosnian High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council began hearing a disciplinary case against judge Branko Peric on Monday in Sarajevo over several allegedly inappropriate statements he made in media articles, including a claim about the lack of prosecutions of high-ranking Bosniak wartime officers.

Disciplinary prosecutor Mirza Hadziomerovic said that Peric is charged with having made three inappropriate statements about cases he was involved with, thus violating the judicial code of ethics.

“This is why we are asking for an adequate disciplinary measure. The goal of this case is to sanction judge Peric. As a judge who confirmed the indictment, he commented on the cases of Fahrudin Radoncic and Milan Mandic, and such claims could have jeopardised these cases,” said Hadziomerovic.

Radoncic, the president of a political party in Bosnia, is charged with contempt of court, and Milan Mandic was recently acquitted of causing ethnic hatred by describing the Srebrenica genocide as “just”.

Peric is also charged with having violated the ethical code by claiming publicly that “there is no political will in Sarajevo to prosecute Bosnian Army generals for war crimes”.

The case against Peric was launched after a complaint brought by a local NGO called the Association of Victims and Witnesses of Genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Peric’s statements were published in regular columns he writes for Banja Luka-based daily newspaper Nezavisne Novine.

In response to the allegations against him, he said that NGOs were unfortunately driven by politics.

“I have not violated any ethical code. All the things that I have presented in public have been published with the aim of improving the judiciary and pointing to an increasing involvement of politics in it,” Peric said.

“My idea is to defend the judiciary from political pressure. The existence of a number of disciplinary proceedings is a form of repression which destroys the right to an opinion and independence,” he added.

He said the columns he wrote contained proposals for the advancement and improvement of the judiciary and were not aimed at undermining his colleagues.

He also said that Ruzica Jukic, the president of the disciplinary commission and vice-president of the HJPC, has also publicly commented on the proceedings against Fahrudin Radoncic.

Peric further insisted that the case was not based on facts and that the HJPC and its ethics committee should have been asked for input before it started.

Neither the disciplinary prosecution nor Peric has asked for any witnesses to be heard.

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