The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIN) has organized a roundtable discussion in Sarajevo, bringing together representatives of the judicial community to discuss the process of selecting and appointing judges and prosecutors with the aim of improving the existing system.
The President of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina (HJPC BiH), Halil Lagumdžija, said that conducting an objective and transparent procedure for appointing judicial officeholders is a primary role of the HJPC.
“This issue is very sensitive and complex, and the Council tried in the course of its work to find the best modalities to appoint the best and most professional candidates to all judicial positions while respecting the constitutional provision on equal ethnic representation,” said Lagumdžija.
He noted at the CIN conference that the HJPC plans to improve the appointment process by expanding the database of examination questions, involving judges and prosecutors outside the Council in the interview process, introducing an assessment of the mental abilities of candidates for judicial office, and establishing clear criteria for assessing professional competencies of expert associates.
In the publication “A look at the efficiency of the judiciary through the prism of the appointment process and its practical implications”, which was presented at the conference, legal expert Sevima Sali-Terzić offered recommendations to improve the existing practices and thus ensure that judicial officeholders are selected and appointed based on professional skills, ethics, and integrity. One of the recommendations is to restrict the promotion of judges and prosecutors who have been disciplined, which currently is not the case.
Mirza Hadžiomerović, Deputy Chief Disciplinary Counsel, also agreed that disciplinary sanctions should be taken into account in the appointment process: “The imposed disciplinary measures can be viewed as one of the parameters in the appointment process in terms of the candidate’s fitness to perform the function.”
Selim Karamehić, a member of the HJPC BiH, added that disciplinary responsibility in the appointment process is considered on a case-by-case basis and that this issue is not fully regulated. He has confirmed that publication presented the facts, which the Council will take into account: “In 2018, we (the Council, author’s note) prepared a proposal for a full text of Law on the HJPC, which among other things, contains the part concerning staff issues and appointment of judicial officeholders. There we elaborated certain views and proposals to improve the matters we have been talking about today, i.e., to improve i.e., reach better solutions.”
According to Ms. Leila Bičakčić, Executive director of CIN, the CIN’s long-standing research, as well as the findings of the analysis produced by legal expert Sali-Terzić, suggest the need for significant change in the process of appointment and career advancement of judges and prosecutors, most notably aimed at better performance appraisal, transparency of process and consideration of disciplinary measures in the appointment process.
“Indicators so far show that the appointments are made regardless of disciplinary proceedings, which further undermines the public’s perception of the judiciary. The integrity of judicial officeholders, which takes into account all aspects of professional and ethical conduct, is essential for the quality work,” said Bičakčić.