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INVESTIGATION: Bosnian Judiciary Criticised for Employing Relatives

12. May 2015.00:00
In at least 12 cases, Bosnian state court and prosecution employees are related to each other – a situation which could create conflicts of interest, experts say.

This post is also available in: Bosnian

In at least 12 cases, Bosnian state court and prosecution employees are related to each other – a situation which could create conflicts of interest, experts say.

Bosnian judiciary officials insist that they simply choose the best candidate for any job and that data about family connections is not available to them when recruiting.

But although there is no evidence of any wrongdoing as a result of close relatives being employed, critics say the practice is inappropriate and could cause conflicts of interest.

The children of Bosnian state court judges Mira Smajlovic, Senadin Begtasevic and Esad Fejzagic were or still are employed in the prosecutor’s office of Bosnia and Herzegovina – Lejla Smajlovic and Tin Begtasevic as associates and Fedja Fejzagic as an intern.

Some Bosnian prosecutors’ children also work in the state court. Prosecutor Sanja Jukic’s son Boris worked as an intern; now Nejra Suskic, the daughter of prosecutor Ismet Suskic, Goran Djemidjic, the cousin of prosecutor Sanja Jukic and Deni Odobasic, the son of prosecutor Izet Odobasic, all have intern’s positions.

Azra Efica, the daughter-in-law of prosecutor Ibro Bulic, is currently an associate (legal adviser) at the prosecutor’s office, while its witness support unit hired the cousin of judge Minka Kreho.

The partner of judge Goran Radevic is employed by the Bosnian prosecution, as is the partner and step-child of the Bosnian court’s head of accounts, Krunoslav Jelic. The daughters of two typists at the Bosnian court have also found employment within the state-level prosecution.

“I just think it inappropriate that a judge comes to work with his child to the same building,” one Sarajevo-based judge told BIRN.

Lawyer and former judge Vlado Adamovic said that new regulations must be put in place in order to avoid allegations of bias.

“If your son prepared an indictment in the prosecutor’s office, and you are the one trying the case, it is difficult to be objective. Rules should be prepared to avoid situations like this,” Adamovic said.

A lawyer in a recent case at the Bosnian court, Izet Feraget, asked for judge Senadin Begtasevic to be removed because he felt that there was a conflict of interest caused by the fact that the judge’s son, Tin Begtasevic, worked as an associate in the case his client was involved in.

“Judge Begtasevic is affected by knowledge which he probably received privately from his son,” said Feraget.

“I think that is a conflict of interest, there is reasonable doubt about the judge’s bias,” he added.

The Bosnian state court rejected his request, however. It also refused to allow BIRN access to the text of the decision, claiming that “decisions from the state court general sessions are not public documents”.

However, according to BIRN’s sources, the decision stated that Feraget did not properly explain the connections between the cases that the son and father worked on.

‘A young country with many lawyers’

The Bosnian state court told BIRN that when selecting legal advisers, it does not “take into account their family ties, nor does it know about them, since the primary criteria is the knowledge test”.

“After the test, the best candidates are proposed, those with the biggest number of points. We are also mindful of gender and national [ethnic] affiliation,” said the court.

The Bosnian prosecution, however, refused to comment on its employment procedures.

Adamovic said that children of judges and prosecutors should not be stopped from working if they actually score highest in a test, but regulations should be put in place which would ensure that children do not work the same cases as their parents.

“They should not be removed, because they also have rights and career paths,” he said.

The chief disciplinary prosecutor in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Arben Murtezic, told BIRN that current law strictly defines in which cases judicial workers should ask to be excused.

“We had one or two cases in which a judge did not ask to be excused from a case and we found that he or she should have. To be fair, though, it was not one of the cases that was clearly defined by law. We sanctioned the judge is question in one of those cases,” said Murtezic.

Murtezic said it was natural that members of the same family would pick similar careers, so the only issue is making sure that judges are excused from cases when necessary.

“This is a small country and sometime entire families are lawyers. I don’t think it’s a big problem,” said Murtezic.

Milorad Novkovic, the former president of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC), which oversees much of the country’s judicial system, said that the issue should be clearly defined in a rulebook on conflicts of interest.

“It is not good to only hire children of judges and prosecutors for associates [legal advisers], but we cannot refuse those children the right to apply. There are courts where brothers and sisters work, there are prosecutors where close relatives work together – husbands and wives,” said Novkovic.

Family ties, countrywide

The Bosnian court and prosecution are in charge of their own employment procedures, while entity-level judicial institutions are staffed by the HJPC. Entity-level judicial institutions are also filled with examples of relatives working together.

Amar Jaganjac, the son of the Bosnian Federation supreme court president and former member of the HJPC Amir Jaganjac, was hired as an associate in the Bosnian prosecution. Vladimir Simovic is a prosecutor on the state level and son of constitutional court judge Miodrag Simovic.

The wives of Bosnian court judge Tihomir Lukes, disciplinary prosecutor Murtezic and state prosecutor Dzermin Pasic all work in the judiciary. Dinka Lukes is a Federation supreme court judge, Melika Murtezic a municipal judge in Sarajevo and Maja Pasic a prosecutor in Sarajevo.

Drazenka Jurisic was a municipal-level judge in Mostar, while her husband Mladen Jurisic was the president of the cantonal court in Mostar.

The Sarajevo prosecution hired Amira Salihagic-Sadlarevic, the daughter of the ex-president of the cantonal court in the capital. One of the heads of department in the Sarajevo municipal court is Nedim Cosic, the son of former Tuzla chief prosecutor Sesenam Cosic.

Avdo Kadric, the son of judge and HJPC member Zijad Kadric was named as an associate in the Tuzla municipal court, while Ines Midzic-Hodzic, daughter of Bihac cantonal judge Fikret Hodzic, is a prosecution associate in the same city.

Judicial institutions also hire relatives of high-ranking politicians. The Bosnian prosecution employs Vedrana Mijovic, the daughter of a former state-level MP from the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, while Dubravko Campara and Dzermin Pasic, are the brother of Aljosa Campara and the son of Safet Pasic respectively, both members of the Party for Democratic Action.

Sarajevo canton prosecutor Jasmin Dzaferovic is the son of Sefik Dzaferovic, the president of one of the houses of the Bosnian parliament, while Martina Raguz – the daughter of Martin Raguz from the Croatian Democratic Community 1990 – is an intern at the Bosnian court.

Former HJPC member Asim Crnalic said that it is inexcusable that members of the council hire family members.

“It is not nice to list personal examples, but when I was a member and my daughter finished law school it would have been nice to hire her in one of the courts or prosecutions. I didn’t dream of it, since I would lose credibility and all my criticisms would be brought into questions if I would allow myself to hire my own child in the judiciary,” said Crnalic.

The HJPC brought out a new rulebook on conflicts of interest at the end of last year to try in an attempt to address the issue.

Selma Učanbarlić

This post is also available in: Bosnian