News 22 May 17

Bosnian Courts Urged to Disperse War Crime Trials

The problem of war crimes prosecution is one of the biggest issues facing the courts in Bosnia, and more cases must be transferred from the state court to lower courts, a Sarajevo conference heard.

Admir Muslimovic
BIRN
Sarajevo
Conference of presidents of court and chief prosecutors. Photo: BIRN BiH

Milan Tegeltija, president of Bosnia’s High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council, on Monday said the problem of war crimes prosecution had been “dragging for 20 years” in Bosnia.

At a conference of court presidents and chief prosecutors taking place on Monday and Tuesday in Sarajevo, he said the national strategy about prosecuting war crimes faced major problems, mainly to due to backlogs and overload.

“The key problem is insufficient distribution and dispersal of jurisdictions [over cases] to the courts in BiH,” he said.

“The State Court has faced [handling] a large number of cases, but in the following period, increased dispersal [of cases to lower courts] will result in faster work and more effective resolution of war crimes cases,” he added.

He noted that while the judiciary included “the best part of Bosnian society”, at the same time it was also the part of society that is under the closest public scrutiny.

Tegeltija claimed an increased efficiency on the part of courts and prosecutors’ offices in BiH.

“We are solving a backlog of cases and no longer have any cases older than five years. The length of procedures has been shortened and we consider that progress,” Tegeltija explained.

He said prosecutors’ offices were handling increased number of cases of corruption, in some cases concerning the highest office holders in the land.

“In the last five years, 18 ministers, one prime minister and 13 mayors have been prosecuted, while 39 judgments were issued, more than 80 per cent of which ended with convictions,“ he said.

Criminal policy in BiH is one of the most important topics in the judiciary and, according to the president of the Supreme Court of Republika Srpska, Vesna Antonic, it must be viewed from the aspect of its sharpness and equality.

“At the level of all courts in BiH, war crimes cases, as among the most complex, often end up with convictions and the imposition of a prison sentence. The courts have shown significantly better results, which means that we are moving towards a more effective criminal policy,” Antonic said.

Public confidence in the judicial institution, according to the parameters shown at the conference of the HJPC, rose by 6 per cent in 2016 compared with 2015.

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