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OSCE says Bosnia prosecutors are doing a poor job against corruption

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Bosnia’s prosecutors have done a poor job in solving the most serious cases of corruption involving politicians, who seem to have been granted impunity for such crimes, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) said on Friday.

In a report on corruption cases in 2017-2018, the OSCE found the country’s two prosecution offices specialising in dealing with the most serious graft cases did not initiate the majority of such cases. Rather, indictments were filed by lower-level prosecution offices.

Only one in three high-level corruption cases resulted in conviction while the conviction rate in medium level graft cases was still low at 74 percent, according to the report.

“The judicial response to corruption in Bosnia is insufficient...suggesting a reality of de facto impunity for those who commit such serious crimes,” said Bruce Berton, the OSCE mission’s chief, presenting the report.

There has been no progress in harmonising criminal legislation across Bosnia’s multi-layer government, the report added.

The report said prosecutors performed poorly in drafting indictments and gathering evidence, while judges were generally failing to provide a sound reasoning in their decisions and in applying the law consistently.

In addition, excessively long proceedings, with an average pre-trial period of 217 days and average trial length of 381 days, risked violating the right to trial within a reasonable time.

Berton said he hoped the poor judicial response to corruption will be addressed as part of a European Union initiative to monitor Bosnia’s law enforcement agencies and courts that was launched several weeks ago.

Bosnia aspires to join the EU but must first improve the rule of law. Critics have called the judiciary in the ethnically-divided Balkan country ineffective and subject to political pressure.

Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Frances Kerry