Opinions differ on BiH judiciary sector

11/04/2012

Since 2003, more than 70 judges and prosecutors from Western Europe and the US have provided legal expertise in improving BiH judiciary.

By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 11/04/12

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Foreign legal experts provide expertise to the BiH judiciary. [Reuters]

As the last of the foreign judges and prosecutors prepare to leave Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), opinions are divided on the effectiveness of their input, and how effective their appointment was. More than 70 judges and prosecutors, mostly from Western Europe and the US, were appointed to the BiH state court and prosecutor's office since 2003 in order to improve the state judiciary, and assist local judges and lawyers with legal expertise.

The mandates of the last remaining three foreign judges and prosecutors run out at the end of this year.

In Sarajevo, some legal experts are dissatisfied with the departure of the judges, while Republika Srpska welcomes the end of their mandate.

Kasim Trnka, constitutional law professor at the University of Sarajevo, told SETimes that it is not the time for the foreign prosecutors and judges to leave because the judicial institutions are still weak and susceptible to political and ethnic influences.

"Foreigners arrived as a neutral factor to calm the situation and train local personnel to run neutral investigations and trials, regardless of anyone's ethnicity. Unfortunately, I think there is still no reconciliation in BiH, and the foreigners are leaving prematurely," Trnka said.

Medzida Kreso, president of the state BiH court, told SETimes that the foreign presence in the judiciary contributed to strengthening the rule of law and introducing high international judiciary norms and standards.

"The most agile of all were the US prosecutors and judges. They were practically the locomotive of the entire judiciary system. The domestic judiciary learned a lot from them. When we started the war crimes trial, no one could complain that we were nationally biased because for each trial, there were two foreigners and one local judge in the judicial council," Kreso said.

Senad Kreho, a Sarajevo lawyer, evaluated the presence of foreign legal experts in BiH as positive in general.

"Of course, it was a positive engagement, but it must be said that there were also those judges and prosecutors who learned from our judges instead of training the domestic staff. I also think that BiH has enough domestic capacity to fill in all positions in the judiciary," Kreho told SETimes.

Philippine Prosecutor Jude Romano was one of the judges engaged in complex cases, raising indictments for crimes committed in the Mostar and Dretelj detention camps, and presenting them before the state court. Eric Larson and Kwai Hong Ip, from the US, worked on major genocide cases and other crimes connected to the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

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Zeljko Mirjanic, from the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), told SETimes it is good that the foreign judges are leaving the BiH judiciary.

"They marginalised the legal doctrine and expertise in BiH. We have enough of our own staff able to perform the judicial function," said Mirjanic, adding that the departure of foreign judges and prosecutors is one more step towards the democratisation of the judiciary.

Miroslav Mikes, a Banja Luka lawyer, said that foreign judges and prosecutors were to train local officials to work more efficiently, but he said that the international community appointed those with no experience for the job.

"If they sent a US judge with 30 years' experience, it would have been very helpful and good. However, they brought in people who never worked on an indictment, and certainly not on such complicated matters such as war crimes. Judges at the BiH constitutional court were doing their job well, while the judges of the court and the prosecutor's office needed to improve their job. I think their time has ended, and they should leave," Mikes told SETimes.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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