News 22 Apr 15

Reform Justice or Lose Funds, EU Tells Bosnia

The European Commission will not release funding to pay the salaries of over 140 judiciary employees unless the Bosnian authorities adopt justice sector reforms, an EC official told BIRN.

Denis Dzidic
Jean-Eric Paquet.

The European Commission’s Western Balkans director Jean-Eric Paquet said that Brussels has repeatedly warned the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina that financial assistance for war crimes prosecutions will be stopped unless a justice sector reform strategy is adopted.

Despite this, Paquet said, nothing has been done.

“Nothing has come as a surprise for the authorities concerned,” he said.

“However, the adoption of the justice sector reform strategy remains an unfulfilled key condition for the continuation of the extraordinary IPA [Instrument for Pre-Accession] budget support for war crimes case processing. This requirement will not change,” said Paquet.

In December 2013, the EC released the first tranche of funds allowing the recruitment of 142 prosecutors, judges and assistants working on war crimes cases throughout the country.

But because of the failure to adopt justice sector reform, the second tranche was halted at the beginning of this year.

This has already caused problems in the judiciary - some prosecutors are working without salaries, assistants have been fired and there is no funding for investigations.

According to Paquet, more war crimes cases were processed as a direct consequence of the staff recruitment and urged the authorities to find an urgent solution to allow this to continue.

“The advanced pace of war crimes case processing should be maintained. This is also required to respond to victims’ expectations and to avoid further undermining of citizens’ trust in the judicial authorities and their elected representatives,” he said.

Asked to state the minimum the EC wants from the justice sector reform strategy, Paquet responds: “The bottom line is to address longstanding concerns over professionalism, efficiency and integrity of the judiciary throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. Consensus on a countrywide strategic framework for credible reforms in these directions is an important basis for EU engagement and assistance.”

Paquet said that the EC believes the strategy has yet to be adopted because the government in the Serb-led Republika Srpska entity is refusing to accept a draft which recommends the creation of an appeals court on the state level. The Bosnian Serbs allege this represents an undermining of some of their autonomy.

But Paquet insisted that the creation of the court would not transfer any additional jurisdiction from entity to state level.

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