A recent case of alleged corruption in BiH High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC) went even higher, as the representatives of the international community in the state issued a statement that emphasized that no one is above the law.
The case was triggered by local media, which published a secret recording of the HJPC president, Milan Tegeltija (photo) in a meeting with a local businessman. The third person in the meeting was State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) inspector Marko Pandža, who organized the meeting. The participants talked about a possible solution of the businessperson’s, namely Nermin Alešević, judical case. He complained that the judge intentionally does not want to work on his case.
Tegeltija, as it is recorded, asked Pandža to send him the case number and promised Alešević that he will see what can be done for a possible solution. After he left, Pandža asked Alešević to give him 2,000 BAM (about 1,000 Euros) for, as he said, the “shoeing” of some persons, which is a common phrase for bribery.
But the recording and statements of the people involved in the case did not link Tegeltija with the money. That was the reason why HJPC Disciplinary Commission rejected all accusations and declared that Tegeltija was not responsible for any wrong-doing, except that he should not have promised anything regarding any specific case.
The Commission’s decision triggered bitter reactions from the public but the case is still open. On Thursday, the international community’s High Representative for BiH, Valentin Inzko, issued a statement saying that he is surprised by the decision of Commission to dismiss the suspension request filed against the HJPC President, pending an investigation into allegations that he was involved in bribery.
“Such a situation is unacceptable,” said the High Representative, adding that in practice the decision grants immunity to all members of the HJPC.
Inzko appealed to the HJPC to take all necessary steps to fix the situation and once again build up the public’s trust in the institution.
As Inzko hit the ball into Tegeltija’s court, he promptly reacted with a letter to the foreign ambassadors and members of the Peace Implementation Council in BiH. In this letter, Tegeltija asked from the ambassadors to “protect him from the High Representative’s allegations”. He probably was not expecting the statement that the PIC members sent to him as an answer.
In the Joint Statement of the OSCE, OHR, US Embassy, UK Embassy, German Embassy, Embassy of the Netherlands and Embassy of Spain, the ambassadors said that they are “alarmed following the recent events with regard to the HJPC, in particular the Disciplinary Commission’s decision concerning the alleged misconduct of the President of the HJPC.”
“No one should be above the law. This holds especially true for the members of the judiciary, whose integrity is a prerequisite for upholding the rule of law. We call on the HJPC and judicial institutions to hold responsible any judicial office holder who is alleged to have committed wrongdoing. Allegations of improper conduct or corruption against the Council members demand complete and thorough investigations. The law on the HJPC does not provide for impunity. On the contrary, it clearly provides many possibilities by which the President of the HJPC should be held accountable, including by disciplinary proceedings,” said the Joint Statement.
As usual, the Russian Embassy in BiH had a different opinion. In a separate statement, the embassy said that it was “unpleasantly” surprised with the statement that the Office of the High Representative (OHR) signed alongside other embassies in BiH regarding the case.
“The Embassy of the Russian Federation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is unpleasantly surprised with the statement of the Office of the High Representative regarding the attempts to undermine the dignity of the judicial bodies of BiH, i.e. the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC) and its President,” said the Embassy.
Instead of supporting the independence of these institutions, the embassy emphasized that the OHR decided to “exert pressure on the institutions of sovereign Bosnia and Herzegovina with an arrogant interference into their work and imposing its own view on how to solve this issue.”
“We find such behaviour irresponsible. The OHR is obliged to express stances of the entire international community and not of some of the members of its choice or its own stance,” said the Embassy of Russia, reiterating that meddling in the work of the judicial bodies is unacceptable.
It is obvious that the case will occupy the public’s interest for a long time. Unfortunately, it has already shaken the public’s trust in the state institutions and does not contribute to the normalization of the situation in BiH./ibna