BiH lawmakers increase efforts against corruption

23/06/2014

Under new legislation, anti-corruption and anti-crime institutions will be established in BiH.

By Drazen Remikovic and Bedrana Kaletovic for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 23/06/14

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Officials in Brussels said the demands of the citizen protests in February are equal to the demands of the EU. [Bedrana Kaletovic/SETimes]

With a set of anti-corruption laws that the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) parliament adopted this month, authorities have increased their efforts against corruption and organised crime, experts and citizens said.

The entity government passed five laws, two of which envision the creation of specialised anti-crime and anti-corruption units.

FBiH Prime Minister Nermin Niksic said the new bodies will be similar to Croatia's Bureau for Combatting Corruption and Organised Crime.

''The changes represent a new chapter for the country and its judicial institutions," Niksic said on June 5th at a news conference in Sarajevo after the laws were adopted.

The anti-corruption units will be formed after the October elections in BiH.

"The judiciary and the prosecution will now work much better," Mirsad Djonlagic, a member of the entity's parliamentary Committee for European Integrations, told SETimes.

"The set of anti-corruption laws is different from the previous ones since the laws have been improved. We now have a legal framework," Ismet Osmanovic, a member of the BiH parliament, told SETimes.

The application of the new laws will better co-ordinate the legal institutions in the 10 FBiH cantons, since they will have the tools necessary to prosecute crime and corruption.

""The institution of cooperating witnesses is being legally established, which will significantly contribute to a more efficient discovery, clarification and establishment of guilt for all kinds of organized crime ", said FBiH Justice Minister Zoran Mikulić.

One of the new laws allows confiscation of illegally acquired possessions, describing them as possessions obtained through legally forbidden and punishable activities having criminal implications.

''When you leave criminals without funds, you are hitting them in the centre. By applying these laws, BiH will not only meet its European obligations, but will also relax the situation in society that is very unsatisfied due to the high level of corruption and crime," Djonlagic said.

"In order to carry out this law, a federal agency will be established to manage the confiscated goods, with a seat in Sarajevo and specially organised units outside of the headquarters," Nenad Petrovic, a lawyer in Sarajevo, told SETimes.

Since citizen protests in February there has been increased pressure for governmental reform and anti-corruption measures.

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"The changes represent a new chapter for the country and its judicial institutions," FBiH Prime Minister Nermin Niksic said. [FBiH government]

According to Transparency International, about 35 percent of citizens in BiH said corruption has increased over the past two years, and 70 percent said authorities are ineffective in combatting corruption.

Officials in Brussels have made it clear that the EU expects stronger efforts in prosecuting corruption in BiH, noting that citizens' demands expressed during the February protests mirror those of the EU.

Citizens hailed the adoption of the anti-corruption laws and said reforms must be continued in order to improve the economic and social situation in the country.

"It's a good thing that we can actually see some moves ahead," Sejad Ludivic, a professor of sociology from Sarajevo, told SETimes. "I do not have illusions that everything will start to function overnight, but with time and political willingness to carry on the reforms, things can be better, for sure. At the end, if the people don't like the tempo of reforms, the elections are in October."

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"Citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina demand that politicians stop squabbles and begin to fight against corruption and poverty. Now, politicians have an opportunity to show that they are listening to people's voice," BiH High Representative Valentin Inzko said.

Experts, however, said authorities in Sarajevo should be careful when it comes to political pressure on the investigative and judicial institutions, noting that similar initiatives were conducted in Republika Srpska (RS), but failed to succeed.

"RS formed a special prosecutor's office and agency for the confiscation of illegal gained property, but those institutions had no results and served as protection for top politicians. That should serve as an example to FBiH. New agencies should be given full independence if we want to succeed in fighting against corruption. Clear jurisdiction and co-operation between the institutions is crucial," Ivana Korajlic, a spokesperson for Transparency International BiH, told SETimes.

How effective will the new laws be in combatting corruption in BiH? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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