Prosecution of “Petty” Corruption and No-Effect Sanctions

9. December 2019.16:00
Over the course of this year the Prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina has filed eight indictments against 23 individuals for corrupt acts, while the State Court has passed down six verdicts, including five convictions, following guilt admission agreements - the data collected by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Bosnia and Herzegovina, BIRN BiH, suggest.

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Experts think that the fact that “petty” corruption cases have been prosecuted is the reason for mistrust on the part of citizens, who “marched” for corruption victims in Sarajevo today.

On the occasion of the World Anti-Corruption Day a “march for corruption victims” took place in Sarajevo. Its participants sent a message to politicians that the times of declarative support to “the fight against corruption” had passed and requested the dismissal of all members of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council, as well as adoption of the law on protection of corruption denouncers in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“We have gathered here on behalf of all corruption victims in Bosnia and Herzegovina – the country in which you may bribe judicial authorities without any consequences and persecute whistle-blowers, trade in diplomas, so it happens that every second high school student is functionally illiterate, be a doctor and behave like you are in a supermarket, picking which child you will treat, employ the suitable ones and tie children to radiators or expect clean air, while selling parks to banks,” Mirna Stankovic-Lukovic, project coordinator of the Center for Media Development and Analysis, wrote in a public announcement.

An expert report on the rule of law in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was presented in Brussels last week, indicates that “the corruption cases prosecuted so far, which have resulted in second instance verdicts, refer to petty corruption and the sanctions imposed do not have an adequate effect”.

As noted by expert Reinhard Priebe, “specialized sections with prosecutors’ offices must begin dealing efficiently with high-level corruption cases,” as previously reported by BIRN BiH.

The report also indicates that widespread corruption in the public sphere and its strong link to organized crime is an issue of concern. Out of five verdicts of conviction pronounced at the state level this year, two refer to abuse of position and authority, as well as falsification of an official document, by state agency employees.

The state civil servants were sentenced to one year in prison and probation, which can be replaced by a fine. Darko Marcetic of the State Investigation and Protection Agency, SIPA, was sentenced to a cumulative sentence of one year for misuse of position and authority, as well as illegal use of personal data. He was also banned from working as a police officer for five years. Cvijo Medic and Stojan Gligic, officers at the Indirect Taxation Authority, got suspended sentences of six months each for having falsified an official document.

Priebe’s report concludes, among other things, that the judicial system in Bosnia and Herzegovina does not succeed to deal with serious crimes and corruption and that not one of the four existing judicial competencies functions adequately. Besides that, the report also says that HJPC members sit on disciplinary commissions in cases against other HJPC members, which creates additional mistrust among citizens.

“Such conduct, particularly at the top of the judicial system, gives a bad example and also spreads the atmosphere of insecurity and frustration among citizens,” the report indicates and recommends an in-depth review of unsuccessful cases with the aim of identifying systemic problems and creating a plan of action with strict deadlines.

In her interview with BIRN BiH, the chief state prosecutor, Gordana Tadic, announced prosecution of high-ranking perpetrators by the end of the year, emphasizing that she had brought mandatory instructions for prosecutors to perform financial investigations in accordance with new recommendations by HJPC, adding that corruption levels had been classified as high, medium and low for the first time ever.

The chief prosecutor said that work on this type of crimes would be improved by merging sections II and III into one section, which would deal with organized and economic crime, corruption and terrorism.

In its report prepared on the basis of monitoring court proceedings in corruption cases in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the past three years, which was published at the beginning of April this year, the OSCE Mission warned that it seemed that over the past years the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina had minimiyed the use of “extended jurisdiction” instruments for crimes determined under the criminal codes of the entities and Brcko District of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which might be one of the reasons for poor performance of the Bosnian State Prosecution in high-level corruption cases.

During a conference held in Sarajevo today on the occasion of the World Anti-Corruption Day, the chief of the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kathleen Kavalec, said that “the Mission is working at all government levels to strengthen the relations between anti-corruption institutions and bodies, promote transparency of government and develop a relevant anti-corruption legislation”.

The ambassador of the United States, Eric Nelson, said “the citizens of Sarajevo are choking on bad air these days, but citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, throughout the country, are choking on corruption every day,” adding that this must be stopped and the US Government would support all those who fought corruption.


Emina Dizdarević

This post is also available in: Bosnian (Bosnian)