EU Envoy Says Sanctioning Judges and Prosecutors without Due Process Would Undermine Judiciary’s Independence

The European Union’s envoy to Bosnia said that a conclusion adopted this week by the country’s top judicial body to seek the power to sack judges and prosecutors without a proper disciplinary procedure is concerning and could undermine the independence of Bosnian judiciary.

“Fair trial is prerequisite for public trust in the judicial system. The presumption of innocence is at the core of the fundamental rights protected by the European Union,” said Ambassador Lars-Gunnar Wigemark.

“We will ask the Ministry of Justice of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Council of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina to amend the Law on the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council, (…) in order to introduce the exceptional possibility of releasing judges or prosecutors from their duties without the need to conduct a disciplinary procedure against them,” the Council said, after the Republika Srpska entity government’s body for investigation of war crimes complained to the HJPC that nine judges and six prosecutors have discriminated against Serbs in war crimes cases.

“No public official, including judges and prosecutors, should be dismissed without a proper independent investigation and disciplinary procedures first being applied. The appropriate sanction should only be decided after such procedures have been conducted and the allegations against the officials found to be grounded in the law. Circumventing such procedures will limit the independence and impartiality of the judiciary and is not in line with EU standards,” said Ambassador Wigemark.

“As recently proposed by the EU experts, there is a need to improve the criteria for appointment and dismissal of officials, in line with EU standards. And any such improvements need to take full account of the need to maintain the independence of judiciary as well as the respect of fundamental rights.”

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