Bosnia's justice system saved by the bell

Bosnia and Herzegovina's track record in battling corruption is not impressive, to say the least. Now, due to the carelessness of a minister, it is in danger of not being able to prosecute corruption at all.

Tijana Cvjeticanin
Tijana Cvjeticanin Istinomjer, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Source: Istinomjer
Bosnia's justice system saved by the bell - NewsMavens
Edward Onslow Ford - Justice

Why this story matters:

In the country's justice system, the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina is responsible for tackling corruption, organized crime, terrorism and war crimes.

In June 2017, the Constitutional Court of BiH found that several articles of the state Criminal Procedure Code -- regulating investigations, intelligence and witness protection -- were in breach of the Constitution. The court hence gave the authorities 6 months to amend the law.

However, the state Minister of Justice presented the draft of the new law only a few days ago -- and was harshly criticized by the international community for the delay. The Council of Ministers of BiH did not even discuss the proposal.

Ignoring the fact that his own sluggishness had led to the looming legal crisis, Josip Grubeša, Bosnian Minister of Justice, gave this mind-blowing statement:

"We're in a position of uncertainty now. We don't know what tomorrow will bring -- if the Constitutional Court annuls these provisions in two days or not. God help us."

It wasn't "God" that stepped in but the Constitutional Court itself, by deciding to postpone its final decision.

If the court had not been able to agree on a postponement, crucial provisions of the country's criminal code would have become ineffective, therefore rendering all the ongoing court cases and investigations invalid.

We have won some time but the country's legal system is still hanging by a thread, without a solution in sight. 

politics, scandal

Details from the story:

  • Borjana Krišto, former FBiH entity president and current delegate in the state House of Peoples, challenged the provisions of the Law on criminal proceedings in front of the Constitutional Court, which then ruled in her favor.
  • Ironically, and perhaps tellingly, the state Justice Minister comes fom the same political party (HDZ BiH) as Krišto. 
  • Apart from waiting for months to act on the Constitutional Court's decision, Grubeša recently came up with a watered-down draft law, which would make it impossible for the state Court to prosecute any lower-level official for corruption.
  • His proposal immediately received criticism from embassies of several countries.
  • That's the second time that the international community has raised concerns over his ministry's draft laws -- the first being a proposal to grant pardon to accused war criminals.
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