Transparency International in Bosnia (TI BiH) called for urgent reforms of Bosnia’s judiciary and laws on conflict of interest, public procurement, the electoral system and financing of political parties in a statement on Wednesday, International Anti-Corruption Day, warning that further decline in the fight against corruption and rule of law would lead to “complete lawlessness and the collapse of institutions.”
Bosnia now has experienced the worst results in fighting corruption in the past 17 years since International Anti-Corruption Day began to be observed, TI BiH said.
Although the fight against corruption is included in a set of priorities the European Commission defined for Bosnia to tackle in order to achieve EU candidate status, and the fact international institutions have repeatedly warned about the “dramatic state of corruption” in the country, “all relevant reports indicate decline on fighting corruption and rule of law in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” TI BiH said.
The organisation pointed out that Bosnia has experienced a significant decline according to the latest Corruption Perception Index and has experienced the worst result since 2012. It also said that the European Commission in its latest report on Bosnia “very directly emphasizes the lack of any progress in implementing reforms, such as reform of electoral legislation, the judiciary and other anti-corruption mechanisms, as well as the political captivity of the state, which affects the daily lives of citizens.”
It also noted that an OSCE report on the prosecution of corruption highlights a “culture of impunity”, while a report on Bosnia’s judiciary put together by independent EU expert Reinhard Priebe said that the judiciary does not fight crime and corruption seriously.
“In the past period, the authorities in BiH not only did not take any steps to improve the legal and institutional framework in the fight against corruption but also directly blocked the adoption of certain laws, such as the Law on Conflict of Interest at all state levels and the Law on Public Procurement,” TI BiH said.
It also criticised the fact that Bosnia’s top judicial institution, the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC), has not been reformed, adding that the judiciary is facing “unprecedented corruption scandals in its ranks, lack of integrity, political influence, and a complete lack of accountability.”
The past year was again riddled with corruption scandals in Bosnia, such as public procurement abuses in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, influence peddling in the judiciary and theft of public resources, TI BiH said, noting that most of these cases have not been prosecuted yet.
“Political parties in BiH have once again shown not only that they do not want to improve the fight against corruption, but also that they are direct instigators of corruption, compromising the electoral process and the will of the voters and devastating all institutions through their patronage networks. In addition, public pressure to prosecute corruption scandals and accountability is characterized by government officials as an attack on institutions while the judiciary prosecutes those who report corruption and at the same time protects direct participants in the scandals,” TI BiH said.
It noted that the fight against corruption is a precondition for the implementation of all other reforms in Bosnia and urged EU representatives to ensure that meeting the conditions for EU candidate status “includes the adoption of adequate anti-corruption mechanisms in accordance with the best practices and standards” and not to allow “the collapse of the legal framework and law enforcement institutions under the guise of implementing reforms.”