OSCE: BiH judiciary lacks sufficient track record in processing organized crime and corruption cases

The OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina today released The Western Balkans Trial Monitoring Report as part of a European Commission-funded Regional Trial Monitoring Project, evaluating the effectiveness of the judicial response to organized crime and corruption.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), based on the monitoring of 55 organized crime and corruption cases involving over 900 hearings monitored between July 2021 and March 2024, the Report provides evidence-based recommendations developed to improve transparency, efficiency and the utilization of asset confiscation mechanisms.

The overall goal of the Project is to support the BiH judiciary in addressing identified challenges and improving the processing of organized crime and corruption cases.

The Report notes some positive developments, such as the incremental increase in confirmed indictments in high-level organized crime and corruption cases, the engagement of economic advisors in prosecutor’s offices, and increased use of financial investigations to identify illegally acquired assets of defendants.

The Report also identifies key concerns, including inefficient trial management practices, a lack of sufficient transparency regarding outcomes in these cases, a lack of individualized and proportionate sentences, and a paltry number of final verdicts in high-level cases. Human resource constraints remain acute, with positions in the judiciary vacant for prolonged periods, undermining efficiency.

In light of these identified shortcomings, the Report provides ten recommendations related to transparency, trial management, accountability for delays, sufficient staffing and expertise to process these cases, individualized and proportionate sentencing, and the identification and confiscation of illegally acquired gain.

Ambassador Brian Aggeler, Head of Mission in BIH said that BiH lacks a sufficient track record in processing organized crime and corruption cases.

”Better handling of these cases is critical to strengthening the rule of law.  These recommendations lay out key steps to combat impunity for these crimes,” said Aggeler.

The Head of EU Delegation/EU Special Representative in BiH, Ambassador Johann Sattler said that citizens across Bosnia and Herzegovina expect the authorities to do more to address organized crime and corruption. This is also one of the most important priorities for the country, also for progress on the path to the EU.

”The OSCE’s Trial Monitoring Report is one of a number of initiatives that the EU supports to aid the fight against organized crime and corruption. The Report contains a number of important recommendations. I urge all justice sector stakeholders to work towards their implementation and take ownership of these important reform processes,” Sattler stated, the OSCE Mission in BiH announced.