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ActionSEE: Judicial institutions in BiH must work to increase their openness

Alisa Karović

Judiciary in BiH meets 56% of openness indicators and is in second place, immediately behind Montenegro, in relation to other countries of the region, showed this analysis of the openness and accountability of judicial bodies conducted by regional networks ActionSEE through the Regional Openness Index of Government. The index of openness measures the extent to which the institutions of the Western Balkan countries are open to citizens and society according to the criteria of accessibility, efficiency, integrity and transparency.

The research has shown that the situation in the region is bad, that the judiciary bodies have not yet adopted the policy of openness as the key to building institutions. The courts in the region meet 48%, and prosecutors 40% of the indicators of success.

Given that there is no single judicial system at the state level of government that would be equivalent to the judicial systems of the countries in the region, the conducted research was selected by the courts and prosecutors of state and entity levels of government, together with the BiH High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council. The survey covered a total of 31 judiciary institutions.

Individually, the courts in BiH meet 51% of the openness indicators and, in relation to other countries in the region, ranked third, behind Montenegro and Macedonia. The best score in the courts in BiH was recorded in terms of efficiency (83%) and the lowest in terms of accessibility (42%), where in terms of publishing court decisions on official web portals, the result was only 17% of satisfied indicators. Of all the tried and tested courts, only three publish their decisions on official web sites, such as the Court of BiH, the Supreme Court of the RS and the Cantonal Court of Siroki Brijeg. None of the courts that were involved in the investigation did not publish the minutes of the trials conducted, while respecting the legal restrictions.

Only 39% of the courts publish the registry of information that is in possession, while an even smaller percentage, 28% of them have a designated person in charge of access to information requests on their official websites, and in this respect must move towards greater accessibility.

Regarding the efficiency of the courts, progress is also possible in terms of establishing a consistent practice of regular annual publication of data on the effectiveness of individual courts, taking into account data such as statistics on the number of cases, the duration of the entire trial process and the rate of completed cases.

Speaking about the integrity of courts that meets 61% of the indicators set, the survey showed that although there are ethical codes for judges, none of the courts that were the subject of investigation has a Code published on its official website.

Courts in BiH meet only 45% of the indicators in terms of transparency, and the conducted research shows a trend of insufficient commitment to informing the public about the work of the courts in BiH, with extremely uneven practices among the courts themselves. Thus, only 11% of the courts involved in the survey publish the plans and work program (for the last three years), and the only court that has published work plans for the last three years on its official website is the Cantonal Court in Novi Travnik. It is interesting that none of the analyzed courts publishes data on the monthly income of judges.

The prosecutors in BiH meet 64% of the set openness indicators and, in comparison with other countries in the region, are in second place, immediately behind Montenegro. The largest percentage of indicators, 73% of the prosecutors in BiH meet in terms of accessibility, and at least in terms of transparency, only slightly more than half (53%). Almost 73% of the prosecutors’ surveys publish the registry of information they possess, while double the number of prosecutors, only 36% of them have a designated person in charge of access to information requests on their official websites.

When it comes to the principle of effectiveness, prosecutors in BiH meet 72% of the set indicators, and all the above recommendations referring to courts according to this criterion are also applicable to the prosecution. The integrity of the prosecutor’s offices in BiH meets with 55% of the set indicators. Although there is a Code of Ethics for prosecutors, only one of the 11 prosecuted prosecutors has published it on its official website. Speaking of transparency, only 6% of prosecutors publish their annual work plans for the last three years. Of the 11 prosecutorial offices covered by the monitoring, only the Prosecutor’s Office of BiH and the Brčko District Arrangement had published one work plan for the past three years.

The recommendations from the analysis state that it is necessary to strengthen the budget transparency of the prosecutor’s offices, so that the drafts and budget plans, the adopted budget documents and budget execution reports must be made available to the public, through continuous and uniform practices to be established in all prosecutors’ offices.

Unlike the countries of the region, which have separate judicial and prosecutorial councils within their judicial systems, Bosnia and Herzegovina has one body in charge of securing an independent, impartial and professional judiciary in BiH, the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of BiH. In order for the results of the research to be comparable with regional results, the methodological approach required the examination of separate indicators relating to courts and prosecutors, through the competence of the HJPC to them.

The HJPC, measured through judicial indicators, meets 63.49% of the openness indicator and, in relation to the other countries of the region, is on the third place, immediately behind Montenegro and Serbia, while 63.5% of the indicators set up meet through prosecutorial indicators.

The research has certainly shown how judicial institutions in BiH can further enhance their openness to each of the four research criteria, and the analysis also contains recommendations for improving the situation.

The results of the research indicate that it is urgent to actively work on the improvement, and after reaching the basic level of openness, increase the requirements in accordance with the standards of openness.

Measurement was carried out between October and end of December 2016 in BiH, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo, and it was implemented with the financial support of the EU.