Analysis 19 Oct 12

Funds Short For Bosnia’s Much-Needed Prosecutors

While entity courts face an increased caseload from the war crimes strategy, the question is where funds for urgently needed extra prosecutors will come from.

Denis Dzidic

Legal experts say that despite a pressing need to increase the number of prosecutors working on war crimes cases in both of Bosnia’s entity judiciaries, it will be difficult to employ them as money is lacking to pay their salaries.

The need to employ 25 extra prosecutors in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska arises from the transfer of a large number of war crimes cases, which have been deemed “less sensitive” and thus are earmarked for completion in the entity courts.

Bosnia’s High Judicial Prosecutorial Council, HJPC, says a large number of the Prosecutors’ Offices in the entities are qualified to work on war-crime cases and there have been no negative reactions to the increased caseload.

Some Prosecutors’ Offices emphasize that without hiring more prosecutors and the provision of more funds for witnesses and experts they will not be able to operate efficiently.

But it is not clear where the money would come from. The International Monetary Fund, IMF, has already demanded that Bosnia cut public spending and wages and reduce the number of employees in state institutions.

There is hope that funding will be secured from accession funds of the European Union.

But experts note that this will be at best a matter of one-off funding, and is not a basis from which salaries can be paid regularly.

Over 600 cases

A more complete implementation of the National Strategy for Work on War Crimes Cases, adopted four years ago, started a few months ago.

One of the key items of this document concerns switching so-called less sensitive cases from Bosnia’s state court to the entity judiciaries for further processing.

According to the state court, the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 262 cases have been transferred so far to entity judiciaries.

Along with these, the Prosecutors’ Offices in the entities and in Brcko District already have more than 400 cases that they should finish.

The Cantonal Prosecution in Mostar has received over 50 war crimes cases, for example.

Sabina Beganovic, prosecutor from the Prosecutor's Office in Mostar, said that 35 new cases had been delivered this year, and more are expected.

“It is realistic to expect that we will have about a hundred cases against 1,000 persons [in all] for which we need to hire three prosecutors, six experts and an investigator,” Beganovic said.

Three prosecutors currently work on war crimes in the Prosecutors’ Office in Mostar, but they are also working on other crimes.

Beganovic says that in these circumstances they cannot achieve significant results, and she cannot commit herself regarding the timeframe needed to solve the cases they have received so far.

Maja Vidovic, from the District Prosecutors’ Office in Banja Luka, said that two prosecutors and one expert are working on their caseload.

But to resolve 25 extra cases that they have received for further processing, they need employ more prosecutors, she said.

Milorad Novkovic, the President of the High Juridical and Prosecutorial Council, VSTV, who is also the Chairman of the Supervisory Board for Monitoring Implementation of the National War Crimes Strategy, says that he is aware of the problem.

Milorad Novkovic                                           Photo by BIRN

“An entire assessment of the required number of prosecutors has been made. This is the priority and the entity governments need to allocate resources for restructure,” Novkovic told BIRN Justice Report.

According to him, a future meeting of the VTSV will review the assessments regarding experts, lawyers and investigators, as well as of support for witnesses.

The conclusions from that meeting will then be forwarded to the governments of the entities and Brcko District.

But Zlatko Hurtic, an economic expert, says that since jurisdiction for increasing the number of prosecutors as well as other infrastructure remains with the entity and cantonal governments, this could be a problem, with pressure growing on the entities’ budgets.

The Employment and Sacking

As Hurtic explains, the IMF has set stiff conditions on cuts to public spending before agreeing a new loan.

“Given that the IMF requires a reduction of public spending, and thus the cost of administration, the governments have two options,” he says.

“One is to stop recruitment at the level of all institutions, or allow new employment in one institution and have sackings in another,” Hurtic adds.

In theory, more staff can be employed in prosecutors’ offices if the extra salaries are fitted into the amount agreed with the IMF regarding an overall fall in public spending.

Aware of the problem of public spending cuts, Novkovic says they can try to obtain the part of the funds through the IPA, the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance - funds of the European Union.

“For this and next year, the amount of 14 million euro for the prosecution of war crimes cases are planned through IPA projects,’ Novakovic said.

“Out of this amount, about 5 million would go to the entities and about one million to Brcko District. These are important resources which in future will be used for training and support of prosecution of war crimes at the entity level,” Novkovic added.

The Directorate for European Integration has confirmed that the proposal of the IPA package for year 2013, forwarded to the European Commission, is for a total of 90 million euro, of which 25 million is assigned to the justice sector.

However, Hurtic maintains that these funds cannot be used for creating new positions because they are not permanent, but are assistance on a one-time basis.

If Bosnia receives these funds, Novkovic says that in next 12 years all war-crimes cases could be completed, as laid down by the National Strategy for Work on War Crimes.

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