In 2021 and 2022, the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HJPC BiH) decided 55 disciplinary cases launched by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) against judges and prosecutors for violations of the HJPC Act and ethical codes.
As many as 45 were found liable and were accordingly punished by dismissal, demotion, pay cut, public reprimand, or were referred to a training program, while 10 were exonerated of the disciplinary charges.
The most frequent charges included negligence, unjustified delay in work, and improper demeanor.
CIN reporters added these new disciplinary decisions to its database of “Disciplinary sanctions against judges and prosecutors”. The database contains the names of the persons charged with disciplinary charges, the names of the institutions in which they committed the offense, the type of sanction, and a description of the offense. Reporters collected this data based on 260 disciplinary decisions rendered from 2010 to the end of 2022, against judges, prosecutors, and expert associates due to violations of the HJPC Act and ethical codes.
The database was recently updated with 27 rejected and one dismissed disciplinary charges. These involved judges and prosecutors who were found not to be liable for a violation of the Code or the Law, hence the charges were dropped.
This database is unique because it provides citizens with access to complete data on disciplinary sanctions against judges and prosecutors.
One judge dismissed and three chief prosecutors removed from office
In the past two years, ODC dismissed Radivoj Stanišić, the judge of the Sarajevo Municipal Court, and removed Gordana Tadić, Mahmut Švraka, and Mirsad Bilajac from the positions of chief prosecutors of the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Republika Srpska and the BPK Prosecutor’s Office respectively.
As stated in the decision of the disciplinary commission, judge Stanišić marked nine cases pending cases as completed; in five cases he failed to conduct a timely appeal procedure; and in two cases his negligence led to two decisions terminating the proceedings even though the Cantonal Court ordered that another judge be assigned in the repeated proceedings.
He did not attend the disciplinary hearings against him claiming that his safety was seriously threatened. However, he failed to prove such claims, hence the hearing was conducted without his presence and he was removed from judicial office. Judge Stanišić tried to challenge the disciplinary decision in court, but without success.
ODC recalled in the disciplinary decision that Stanišić was subject to disciplinary action for negligence in 2018 when he received a public reprimand.
ODC removed Tadić, Švraka, and Bilajac from the office of the chief prosecutor, demoting them to lower prosecutorial positions. According to the ODC decision, the three of them failed to take action to ensure the full use of the TCMS system that automatically assigns cases to prosecutors, and in addition, they failed to initiate the procedure of personal security checks of employees in their respective institutions.
The disciplinary commission of the HJPC also dismissed Jezdimir Spasojević from the office of the deputy chief prosecutor of Tuzla Canton. He too was transferred to the position of a prosecutor. Spasojević was punished for unlawfully expanding the investigation in one case, for not showing up at the hearings, while using an official driver under the pretext of going to a hearing that was not even scheduled for that day. The commission found this prosecutor to be negligent in his work, thus violating the Code of Prosecutorial Ethics.
Pay cuts and public reprimands
The disciplinary commissions of the HJPC mostly punished judges and prosecutors financially, by cutting a certain percentage of their pay for a certain period of time. This sanction was imposed on 33 judges, two of which were additionally referred to a training program.
One of them is Jasminka Knežević, the cantonal prosecutor from Sarajevo, about whom CIN wrote earlier. She was punished with a pay cut in 2017 and 2020 for marking the pending cases as complete. She was first time punished while working as an expert associate at the Orašje Municipal Court, and the second time as a prosecutor in the Sarajevo Canton Prosecutor’s Office.
Prosecutor Knežević was third time sanctioned in 2022 for entering plea agreements with five persons without the knowledge of the chief prosecutor, and for delaying unjustifiably six criminal cases by failing to act on the prosecutor’s requests to submit a response to the complaints about the suspension or non-conduct of the investigation.
She was sanctioned by a 50% pay cut for one year and was ordered to attend criminal law training for at least three semesters on “Case law of the Supreme Court of FBiH”, “Plea Agreement” and “Professional Ethics”.
Knežević tried to mitigate the sentence with appeals, claiming that at the time at issue, there was an epidemic of the coronavirus and she was overloaded with the bulk of criminal cases, plus she was covering the workload of other colleagues. Her appeal was rejected.
In 2021 and 2022, eight judges and prosecutors received public reprimands, mainly due to delays in making judgments and decisions, thus bringing cases to the statute of limitations, and delaying proceedings. In one case, a judge was punished for plagiarism.
A disciplinary procedure can be initiated by anyone who believes that a judge or prosecutor is not working in accordance with laws or ethical codes. The initiative is considered by ODC, which may put forward the charges or reject the report. Disciplinary proceedings is conducted by a disciplinary commission comprised mainly of members of the HJPC and judges and prosecutors from judicial institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
These procedures are open to the public, but the final decisions are redacted.