Jezik / Language:
20 April 2012

Bijeljina: Request for Change to the Law

Representatives of judicial institutions from Bijeljina and Tuzla, the region’s media as well as representatives of non-governmental organizations request amendments to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Law on Protection of Personal Data, by which the data on indictments and verdicts will be made anonymous.
“The process of anonymity which is taking place now does not make sense. It is creating complete confusion. Besides the names and surnames of the indictees, the place of the criminal offence is also made anonymous, as well as other data. No one can understand why someone is prosecuted”, said Admir Arnautovic, a spokesman of the Cantonal Prosecution in Tuzla.
The District Prosecution in Bijeljina says that there are no unified standards regarding anonymity, and that they are acting in accordance with the opinion of the Agency for the Protection of Personal Data of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“We put the initials in the indictments but we post them on the website”, said Danka Prodanovic, Secretary of the District Prosecutor’s Office in Bijeljina.
Representatives of citizens’ groups believe that such anonymity, which also applies to second instance verdicts, will lead to a “perfidious way of hiding information”.
Journalists say that it is not clear why the data is being hidden since it can be found at the trial itself or from other sources. As journalist say, by hiding information from public institutions, the general public will “speculate” and the public will be misinformed.

In February 2011, the Agency for Protection of Personal Data of Bosnia and Herzegovina adopted an opinion regarding the withdrawal of the indictments from the web sites of judicial institutions, in order to protect personal data. The High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (VSTV) forwarded that opinion to all prosecutor’s offices and courts in Bosnia and Herzegovina to act accordingly.
Acting on the opinion of the Agency, the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina has brought the Instruction on Anonymity, by which all court documents should be made anonymous. Therefore the Municipality of Srebrenica could be written as “Municipality S” or the Ministry of Justice, mentioned only as “Ministry”.
Various Rules
The Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina has made an internal decision that even the anonymous indictments are no longer public documents.

Anonymity also applies to Cantonal, District and other judicial institutions, but in the majority of cases everyone has special rules.

The Cantonal Prosecutor’s Office in Tuzla says they have their own special rules that have proven to be very good and there are no “attacks” on this institution anymore.
“When a person is held in custody, i.e. when the court issues a decision for custody, we publish the name and the surname of the suspect. We do not publish it if it is the matter of sexual offence or if a minor is in question. We need to protect minors and morality,” said Sesenam Cosic, the Chief Prosecutor of the Cantonal Prosecution in Tuzla.
Cosic emphasises that the “proactive informing” of the public is needed and that it yields results.
“We post all confirmed indictments to the web site and inform the public what we have done. We respond to journalists’ questions during the day. There is always something to be said”, said Cosic, adding that the rules of the Prosecution in Tuzla had proved effective and suggested they could be applied elsewhere.

Emir Musli, a journalist from Bijeljina, said that the media and NGOs are “corrective” of the work of the judicial institutions and therefore information should not be denied to them.

Vehid Sehic, from the Forum of Tuzla Citizens, believes that the judicial institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina should follow the examples of the other countries in the region, explaining that the complete indictments can be found on the web site of the Prosecutor’s Office of Serbia, and that recording in the courts in Republic of Croatia is allowed.
Sabina Sarajlija, prosecutor of the Cantonal Prosecutor’s Office in Sarajevo, who is also a member of the Association of Prosecutors of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, believes that the transparency of the judicial institutions is also important because of the preventive action for the commission of certain criminal offences.
“Although the transparency is very important, there are limitations that must be respected. Sometimes when some data is given, it becomes sensationalist writing. Nevertheless, Prosecutor’s Offices in Bosnia and Herzegovina have an image which is not so good and therefore it is very good to establish co-operation with the media”, said Sarajlija.
Confidentiality of information
Despite the limitations, Sehic said that the data should not be fully classified because we go to another extreme which, when it comes to war crimes, could mean the collectivisation of guilt. Regarding other documents which are also made anonymous, Sehic emphasises that taxpayers’ data or the property records of politicians cannot be classified information.
“If the property records of politicians do not feature the name and surname, how we can keep the track whether during the execution of some function one’s property increased or not”, said Sehic.

Emir Musli emphasised that journalists are often provided with information before judicial institutions and then journalists become the ones who are to blame for its publishing.
“Maybe we make mistakes because we publish information which we obtain before the judicial institutions. But if we cannot get information from the judicial institutions, we must somehow inform the public. If we are to follow the rules on anonymity, then it will never be found out who did what”, said Emir Musli.
Journalist Mirsada Residovic says that the media protect themselves against defamation if the judicial institutions confirm the names and surnames of the suspects or the indictees.
“In Bosnia and Herzegovina, very often a large number of people have the same name and surname, so if the journalist does not write information such as the birth date, or from where the individual comes from, it can lead to the change in identity. And if it is a matter of the initials, surely the article would not interest anyone”, said Residovic.
What the representatives of judicial institutions and NGOs, as well as the media, agree upon is to request changes and amendments to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Law on Protection of Personal Data and exempt anonymity when it comes to indictments and verdicts as well as other documents such as property records.
comments powered by Disqus