OSCE's Berton says corruption allegations need to be investigated

NEWS 28.05.2019 19:03
Source: N1

It is necessary to thoroughly investigate the corruption allegations involving Bosnia's top judicial official, said Head of the OSCE Mission in Bosnia Bruce Berton, adding that the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC), whose Chairman is part of those allegations, must show the highest degree of transparency in its work.

Speaking for N1’s Dan Uzivo programme, Berton recalled that the Council is responsible for the appointment of judges and prosecutors in the country but also for the judicial sector’s policies.

“They must be the ones who will impose the standards, who will serve as an example to everyone,” he said.

Investigative media outlet Zurnal.info published a video last week alleging that Milan Tegeltija, the HJPC Chairman, took bribe from a local businessman in return for using his influence to speed up a case at court.

Tegeltija denied the allegations, calling them malicious, but the state prosecutors have formed a case to investigate the story.

Security Minister Dragan Mektic called on Tegeltija to resign and invited citizens through his Twitter profile to gather in a protest in front of the HJPC headquarters, pressuring for the Council members and its head to resign.

Problems in the judiciary including the HJPC do exist, according to Berton.

He revealed for N1 that he signed and sent a letter to the Council alongside the EU Special Representative and the US Embassy in Bosnia, expressing their concern over those problems mostly referring to appointments.

“There are 44 vacant posts in the judicial institutions in Bosnia at the moment. That means those positions need to be timely filled in and that’s the HJPC’s task. There are some inconsistencies in the way how those persons are appointed. We see that as a problem,” he stressed, adding that the HJPC agreed to carry out reforms but that no progress has been made so far.

“I would say that’s Mr Tegeltija’s responsibility but also of other members of the HJPC.”

Asked if the Council could be left without financial support if reforms are not conducted, the ambassador said that is certainly a possibility.

“If they cannot carry out the required reforms, then there is a possibility of reducing or fully eliminating the financial support,” he said.

Commenting on a possibility of the international administrator in Bosnia using his special powers and dismissing the HJPC members, as adviced by former state judge Meddzida Kreso, Berton noted that this was not likely to happen due to the lack of consensus in the international community.

He said it was up to institutions to do their work.