Bosnia needs foreign judges to stay, officials say

Human rights and anti-corruption activists called on international and Bosnian authorities to take all necessary steps to ensure the foreign judges and prosecutors stay.

Bosnia needs foreign judges to stay, officials say

Bosnia faces judicial chaos with hundreds of prosecutions in limbo unless it keeps on foreign jurists at its state court, whose mandate expires this month, international and Bosnian officials said on Wednesday.

"All these cases will suffer if the mandate of international judges and prosecutors is not extended," said U.S. diplomat Raffi Gregorian, the deputy international peace envoy in Bosnia, urging the Bosnian authorities to reconsider the issue.

Bosnia's ethnically-mixed national parliament failed in September to extend the term of the foreign lawyers after Serb deputies opposed the move.

Outside judges and prosecutors were brought in to help Bosnia's state court when it was opened in 2002.

The court has a war crimes chamber and an organised crime department, and the foreigners were seen as a guarantee of independence in a country still plagued by ethnic distrust more than 14 years after the 1992-95 war ended.

Bosnia's chief prosecutor, Milorad Barasin, said that international officials were helping build the country's judicial capacity, impartiality and independence.

"Many cases, some of them at late stages, will have to be re-opened and start from the scratch if the international colleagues leave before the verdicts," Barasin warned. "It would be a waste of precious time and resources."

Many of those responsible for atrocities committed during the war remain at large, and there are still about 16,000 unresolved war crimes cases at different stages of prosecution.

The state court was set up by the office of international High Representative that oversees Bosnia's recovery following the war that claimed around 100,000 lives.

Human rights and anti-corruption activists called on international and Bosnian authorities to take all necessary steps to ensure the foreign judges and prosecutors stay.

"Their departure would be catastrophic and may even ruin the judicial system," said Srdjan Blagovcanin of corruption watchdog Transparency International.

Bosnia's international peace envoy should impose the decision if parliament was unable to pass the bill, Blagovcanin said.

The envoy, Austrian diplomat Valentin Inzko, has the power to impose laws and sack officials if seen necessary for the implementation of the Dayton peace accords that ended the war.

Postwar Bosnia is made up of two autonomous regions, the Muslim-Croat federation and the Serb Republic.

Last Mod: 09 Aralık 2009, 18:31
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