The OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) published the report “The Institution of Additional Judges as a Potential Threat to the Independence of the Judiciary in BiH”.
Additional judges are usually appointed on a temporary basis, either to reduce the number of backlog cases or to replace a judge who has been absent for a long time.
“This report assesses the Institution of Additional Judges and the systemic issues identified by the Mission’s monitoring at sessions of the BiH High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC),” the OSCE Mission noted in a press release.
The report addresses fundamental concerns about the independence of additional judges, due to the timeliness of their terms, the effects on case management, possible pressure on court presidents to request the appointment of an additional judge, and inconsistencies in decisions to extend their mandate. According to the report’s findings, the institution of additional judges has proved ineffective in reducing backlogs. This poses a serious threat to the independence of the judiciary in BiH.
“The purpose of this report is not simply to highlight these discrepancies and provide a critique, but rather to support the HJPC in maintaining and strengthening judicial independence,” said Kathleen Kavalec, Head of the OSCE Mission to BiH. “I hope that this report will stimulate a wider political and legal discussion on this crucial issue, including through the discussion in one of the next sessions of the HJC. There is currently a window of opportunity to reform this institution in the interests of judicial independence and respect for the rule of law, especially in light of efforts aimed at passing an amended law on the HJPC and reforming the wider justice sector. “
The report presents tailored recommendations to the HJC and justice sector actors based on the Mission’s identified challenges, including: ending the practice of extending the terms of additional judges, giving priority to filling vacancies for regular judges rather than appointing additional judges and continuing to seek alternative means to address backlog issues through law, policy or practice.
“HJPC BiH has been cooperating with the OSCE Mission to BiH for many years and helping us analyze the situation in the judiciary and find solutions to improve the quality and efficiency of the judiciary in BiH. In this context, this report is welcome, especially in light of the reform proposals that HJPC BiH intends to implement in the BiH judiciary. The report, which refers to additional judges, also shows what we see in our practice, so this analysis will help us in the plans related to the selection and appointment of judicial office holders. The proposal of these measures that are planned to be implemented will be approved by the end of April this year, “said Selim Karamehić, member of the HJPC Presidency.
“An independent, autonomous, accountable and efficient judiciary is a precondition for the functioning of the rule of law. This report is a timely contribution, supporting the new leadership of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council in taking the necessary actions to accelerate judicial reform in order to increase the institution’s credibility in the eyes of the public and the pace of Bosnia’s integration. and Herzegovina in the EU. This will include the implementation of integrity-related changes to the HJPC Law, once the current draft is approved by the BiH Parliamentary Assembly, “said Johanna Strömquist, Sweden’s Ambassador to BiH, who represents the Swedish Presidency of the OSCE.
The mission will continue to provide support to the HJPC in maintaining and strengthening judicial independence among judicial institutions in BiH.