State Department Report on Bosnia: Serious failures in the judiciary

Department of State

The US State Department published a new report on the state of human rights in the world, Tuesday, and the part that refers to BiH warns, among other things, of serious problems with the independence of the judiciary, restrictions on freedom of expression and the media, violence against journalists, and serious corruption in the government.

“The constitution provides for the right to a fair hearing in civil and criminal matters while entity constitutions provide for an independent judiciary. Nevertheless, political parties and organized crime figures sometimes influenced the judiciary at both the state and entity levels in politically sensitive cases, especially those related to corruption. Authorities at times failed to enforce court decisions,” the report states.
It notes that the law provides for individuals and organizations to seek civil remedies for alleged human rights violations through domestic courts and provides for the appeal of decisions to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). As of year’s end, the government failed to comply with many previous decisions pertaining to human rights by the country’s courts and international institutions.

The report notes that the court system suffered from large backlogs of cases and the lack of an effective mechanism to enforce court orders.

“Inefficiency in the courts undermined the rule of law by making recourse to civil judgments less effective. In several cases, the Constitutional Court found violations of the right to have proceedings finalized within a reasonable time. The government’s failure to comply with court decisions led plaintiffs to bring cases before the ECHR,” the US State Department wrote.

Freedom of Expression

The State Department noted that Bosnia's law provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, but government respect for this right remained poor. Intimidation, harassment, political pressure, and threats, including death threats, against journalists and media outlets, continued during the year.

While threats and pressure against journalists persisted, BH Journalists, a professional association, noted an increase in the number of cases resolved in favor of journalists whose rights were violated.

“In March then Serb member of the BiH Presidency and the leader of the ethno-nationalist SNSD Milorad Dodik showed his middle finger to a group of camera crews as he passed by on his way to a hearing at the BiH Prosecutors Office. On his way back, Dodik repeated the gesture. When criticized for his actions, he apologized and claimed that he had aimed his finger only at the crews of BNTV and Avaz, not the entire journalist community. BH Journalists called on the media community to boycott Republika Srpska entity President Milorad Dodik’s press events until he apologized to all journalists, which he did not do. In April President of the Social Democratic Party Nermin Niksic stopped N1 journalist Suncica Sehic, grabbed her by her hand, and called her “pathetic.” Sarajevo Canton Prime Minister Edin Forto in a TVSA television program shouted at a journalist, attempting to discredit her questions. The BH Journalists Steering Board issued a press release, protesting the disrespectful behavior of politicians toward women journalists,” the Report states, among other things.