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Bosnian State Prosecution Criticized Over Transfer of War Crimes Cases

2. April 2015.00:00
Entity level prosecutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina are dissatisfied with the practice of transferring war crimes from the state level to the entities, after indictments have already been raised. This is affecting their norms, BIRN has learned.

This post is also available in: Bosnian

Over the past three months, the Bosnian state court has transferred five cases to the entities of the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska and the Bosniak-Croat Federation. In all five cases, the indictments were raised by the Bosnian state prosecution before being transferred.

This practice has been strongly criticized by local prosecution offices, who say that cases should be transferred before indictments are filed and raised.

Federal prosecutor Munib Halilovic says the transfer of such cases to entity level prosecutors isn’t illegal, but does run counter to the state strategy for handling war crimes.

“That practice is probably in effect because state level prosecutors are under pressure to reach norms, but their actions are putting pressure on the cantonal and district prosecutors who have to work on these cases,” Halilovic says.
Halilovic says work done on these cases is not accounted for when the annual norms of entity level prosecutors are calculated, although these cases require a lot of work. If a defendant is acquitted, Halilovic claims that this negative outcome is blamed on the prosecutor who handled the case during the trial, and not on the indictment itself.
His view is shared by Sanja Vuzina, the head of the war crimes department of the Banja Luka prosecution. She told BIRN that the state court had recently referred a “less complex case” to her office, which had been initially handled by the state prosecution.
“This is a case which should have been transferred to us during the investigation phase, as per the state strategy, and not when the indictment was finished. The basic problem is the fact that the Bosnian [state] prosecution is not respecting the criteria and is raising indictments in cases they already know they’ll have to transfer to the entity level,” Guzina explains.

The Bosnian state prosecution’s spokesperson said that they work “in accordance with the law,” when asked by BIRN as to why it raises indictments in such cases.

Meddzida Kreso, the president of the Bosnian state court, told BIRN she agrees that transferring cases to entity level prosecutions after indictments have been raised at the state level are problematic. She said such criticisms should be solely directed at the state prosecution.
Kreso explained that only cases in the investigation phase could be sent to the entities by the state prosecution.
“The state prosecution raised a number of indictments which do not meet the prerequisite conditions to be dealt with at the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, because they are not complex cases. That’s against the rules of the [state] strategy, which dictates that the state prosecution will only use its resources to deal with the most complex cases. Since these were not very complex cases, our court had to send them to the entity level,” Kreso explains.
Despite this, Kreso says that sometimes the transfer of cases can be good for entity level prosecutions.
“They get ‘ready-made’ indictments without having to use their own resources,” she says.

The only solution, according to Kreso, would be to have the Bosnian state prosecution only focus on complex investigations and to send less sensitive cases to the entity level. Prosecutor Halilovic, on the other hand, says that norms for prosecutors could be amended, so that working on an indictment relegated by the state level could also be valued.

Denis Džidić

This post is also available in: Bosnian