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11 November 2013

Bosnian Judiciary Urged to Ensure Fairness for All

Goran Obradovic BIRN BiH Banja Luka
Judicial institutions were urged to make changes to ensure fairness after a European human rights court ruling led to the overturning of verdicts against several convicted war criminals.
Representatives of Bosnian judicial institutions and the EU on Monday discussed the changes needed to ensure citizens’ equality before the law after the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling earlier this year led to the quashing of several war crimes verdicts.

The court in Strasbourg ruled in July that two Bosnian war criminals’ rights had been violated because they should have been tried under the potentially more lenient former Yugoslav criminal code instead of the 2003 criminal code of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was adopted after they committed their crimes and allowed for tougher sentences.

The two men who took the case to Strasbourg, Goran Damjanovic and Abduladhim Maktouf, will now be retried. Ten other war crimes convicts’ sentences have also been overturned as a result of the Strasbourg ruling.

The president of Bosnia’s High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council, Milorad Novkovic, said that the most important thing now was to implement the European ruling.

“It cannot be ignored. We will ensure equality of citizens before the court... Judicial, legislative and executive power must create preconditions for it,” Novkovic said.

Gorana Zlatkovic, justice minister in Bosnia’s Serb-led Republika Srpska entity, said that establishment of a higher appeals court should be accelerated in order to create the conditions for equality.

“I expect we will find measures which competent institutions should undertake, but these measures need to cover all convicted persons by retroactive implementation of the law before the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, even those who did not appeal to the constitutional court and the European Court of Human Rights,” said Zlatkovic.

They were speaking at the sixth EU-Bosnia structural dialogue meeting on judiciary reform in Banja Luka, where Barisa Colak, the country’s justice minister, expressed dissatisfaction with the pace and quality of change.

Colak said that there had recently been some positive breakthroughs in the prosecution of war crimes, but that that was still not enough.

“I hope that this session of dialogue will be a step forward in strengthening independence, professionalism, impartiality, and especially responsibility of the judiciary,” he said.
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