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U.S., EU Urge Bosnia To Step Up Fight Against Graft


Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, the head of the EU mission in Bosnia, told the country's leaders that their hopes of joining the bloc would not be realized until more was done to battle graft.

The United States and the European Union have told Bosnia-Herzegovina it is not doing enough to crack down on corruption and that it needs to protect the judiciary from political pressure.

A U.S.-funded report by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) published on February 21 says most corruption-related court cases in the Balkan country have failed because they were not capably handled by prosecutors and judges.

"Too many prosecutors aren't drafting quality indictments...too many judges aren't scrutinizing indictments and they aren't applying or interpreting the law in a reasoned, consistent way," said Maureen Cormack, the U.S. ambassador to Bosnia, during the presentation of the report in Sarajevo.

"The OSCE report shows -- clearly, precisely, and undeniably -- that the legal system in [Bosnia] is not effectively dealing with corruption," she said.

The OSCE said it studied 67 corruption-related trials conducted in the country between 2010 and 2017.

The report says that, in a country beset by widespread corruption, no top official charged in a graft case has ever been convicted.

Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, the head of the EU mission in Bosnia, told the country's leaders that their hopes of joining the bloc would not be realized until more was done to battle graft.

He said a key problem was that penalties for corruption were not harsh enough.

"There needs to be sufficient deterrent," Wigemark said. "You cannot become a member of the EU with such levels of corruption."

The report urged Bosnia's High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC), the top judicial coordination body, to protect judges and prosecutors from political pressure.

Cormack cited "unacceptable" instances in which politicians in Bosnia were able to interfere in selecting, disciplining, and dismissing judges and prosecutors.

"The HJPC must be independent, but it must also be accountable. Not to the politicians with a stranglehold on power in Bosnia, but to the people whom the judiciary represents and serves," Cormack said.

HJPC chief Milan Tegeltija said the council was in the process of improving its capabilities and training prosecutors and judges to deal with corruption cases.

With reporting by Reuters
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