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UN: High Representative, Bosnian Minister Clash Over Judiciary

  • Robert McMahon

http://gdb.rferl.org/C2405CD4-F55A-4C49-8AB0-82893914AB07_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/C2405CD4-F55A-4C49-8AB0-82893914AB07_mw800_mh600.jpg Paddy Ashdown (file photo) The chief overseer of the Bosnian peace process has clashed with the country's security minister over the independence of the local judiciary. The dispute between security minister Barisa Colak and international high representative Paddy Ashdown is related to the indictment of the Bosnian Croat member of the Bosnian presidency, Dragan Covic, by state prosecutors on corruption charges. The exchange marred Ashdown's generally positive assessment of Bosnia's progress, including new cooperation by the Serbian entity with the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal.

United Nations, 23 March 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Bosnian Security Minister Barisa Colak has provoked a dispute with high representative Paddy Ashdown over the independence of international jurists in the country.

Colak today told the UN Security Council that the international judges and prosecutors in the country have mishandled their role.

"In some instances, international judges did not apply the standards [on issues] like the length of detainment, changing of charges during detainment, incomplete and ever-changing lists of proofs and evidence, public statements by prosecutors, and public availability of the indictments before their delivery," Colak said. "All this is contrary to our usual practice and to the European charter on human rights."
"To raise those [issues] in these circumstances in this council with a direct connection with somebody who is now being indicted by that court, criticizing the court's actions, was not a wise action for a minister of security."-- Paddy Ashdown, High Representative for Bosnia


His comments drew a sharp response from Ashdown, who said Colak should have raised any such questions with authorities in Bosnia.

Colak heads the Croat Democratic Union party (HDZ), in which Dragan Covic is also a member. Ashdown suggested Colak was seeking to win support for Covic, who is under pressure to resign from the tripartite presidency because of corruption charges lodged against him earlier this month.

"To raise those [issues] in these circumstances in this council with a direct connection with somebody who is now being indicted by that court, criticizing the court's actions, was not a wise action for a minister of security [and] will have damaged Bosnia and Herzegovina's international reputation as being attached to the principle that politicians do not interfere in actions of the courts," Ashdown said.

Ashdown later told reporters that international judges are independent and are in Bosnia at the request of local authorities.

"It's frankly an abuse of the Security Council to bring supposed problems with the judicial system here to Bosnia-Herzegovina, which a minister, a responsible minister, has not even bothered to take to an appropriate body which is an independent body overseeing the judiciary," Ashdown said.

Earlier, the high representative offered cautious praise for leaders of the country's Bosnian Serb entity for new cooperation with the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal.

Ashdown told the Security Council that Republika Srpska's recent transfer of five indictees to the tribunal reflects a new understanding about the region's future.

"I do now believe that we may be seeing a change in the attitude of the Republika Srpska authorities and an acceptance that the way to Brussels, to the European Union, and to NATO and to the country's future has to lie through The Hague tribunal," he said.

Ashdown urged local authorities to turn over all indictees, including Bosnian Serb wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic and military commander Ratko Mladic.

He also sought to assure officials in the entity that his push for a single state policing structure is not an attempt to abolish Republika Srpska.
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