Showdown with organised crime in BiH, region continues

13/12/2013

Efforts against organised crime by police and the courts are slowly showing results in the Balkans, but more needs to be done, experts and citizens said.

By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 13/12/13

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Regional police can co-operate in ending organised crime, experts say. [AFP]

Officials in Brussels are urging authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and the region to take further efforts to stop organised crime.

"Institutions in the region must show independence and be able to cut the operations of organised crime. Real progress in this struggle cannot be achieved without efficient and stable co-operation between police and judicial authorities. Organised criminal groups are still very present in all countries of the western Balkans and have successful cross-border co-operation," Jelko Kacin, European Parliament rapporteur for the Western Balkans, said in September.

Uros Pena, deputy of director of the Directorate for Co-Ordination of Police Bodies in BiH, said organised crime is a consequence of the situation in the country.

"I think that if we were a finely arranged country in all fields, there would not be such cases. Where's the problem? NGOs say that crime has eaten the whole country. If you ask the courts, they didn't prosecute even one-tenth of those cases. What do we need to do? Analyse the situation. Gather all those opinions and all the information in one place. Something like a crime census. When we know what we're dealing with, then we can act against it more effectively," Pena told SETimes.

Marko Nicovic, a police expert and former chief of Interpol's Office in Belgrade, said several issues need to be dealt with before organised crime in the region can be brought under control.

"Three factors are crucial: co-operation between the states. Criminals work together, so why don't the police do the same? The second is material position of police officers, which in the Balkans needs to be improved. They are the first line of the struggle and they must be secured in order to be independent. The third is the decentralisation of the police. For example, the chief of police in Sarajevo should be elected by the city of Sarajevo," Nicovic told SETimes.

Despite the criticism, BiH has been making efforts to stop organised criminals.

In what has been described as the largest trial on organised crime in BiH, on November 29th, the state court sentenced Zijad Turkovic to 40 years in prison for running a crime ring that committed several murders, attempted murders, smuggled drugs, laundered money and committed millions of euros in robberies.

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"Condemnation of Turkovic's group is proof that this country is able to cope with organised crime," Srdjan Radulj, deputy justice minister, told SETimes. "If we look at what kind of criminal offences this group committed, it can be concluded that these groups simply represent a danger to everyone. The ministry signed bilateral agreements with all countries in the region on the extradition of people who deal with organised crime, and high prison sentences are sending a message to other criminals what awaits them."

Citizens are aware that organised crime is present in the Balkan countries, and said it is essential that society be included in the fight against it.

"I think the citizens need to be more responsible and should report to the police every aspect of crime. There are countless anonymous lines through which it can be done today. The police cannot do it all alone. We must contribute as well, if we want a healthier society," Marina Gijanic, a sociologist from Banja Luka, told SETimes.

What steps can be taken to fight organised crime in the region? Share your thoughts below.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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