The Justice Sector Development Project II (JSDP II)
Access to justice, a central tenet of democratic governance, has become a salient marker of judicial operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina since EWMI began its Justice Sector Development Project II (JSDP II) in 2009. Prior to 2009, political expediency—rather than principles of fairness and transparency—drove the appointment process for top prosecutors and judges. This practice not only undermined public faith in the judiciary but also created a vacuum of qualified lawyers able to enforce judicial precedent and act within the scope of their powers. The introduction of a more merit based system for judicial appointment stood to strengthen the rule of law in the country.
JSDP II was able to achieve this goal through developing a new written entrance exam and systemizing the oral interview process for judicial and prosecutorial candidates. This new system, long championed by reformers, relies on objective and transparent guidelines to measure a candidate’s competencies. Because the HJPC is charged with administering the tests itself, the executive branch cannot exert undue political influence on the process. The new written exam and structured interview procedures were implemented this May.
Initiatives to professionalize the judiciary complement other long-standing programs to streamline court efficiency. Determining, and then publicizing, the expected length of judicial proceedings is a necessary component of due process. A new and more predictable system for processing case timeframes, initially funded through a grant from the Norwegian government, better protects the rights of Bosnian defendants by significantly reducing delayed proceedings and case backlog. It compels court presidents and chief prosecutors to resolve cases within predictable timeframes. As a consequence, the systems transform the courts and POs into more predictable and reliable bodies. In fact, half of all POs in country are now applying rigorous prosecutorial administration standards based on European best practices that were developed by JSDP II. The High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC) has also pledged that it will require all POs to issue such annual reports to the public on significant events in the court calendar.
Easy access to publicly available information has also been accomplished through the creation of a Justice Network. A coalition of over 60 NGOs and professional associations dedicated to advancing the rule of law, the Network successfully launched a website as well as a series of information sheets to raise public awareness of the policies that compromise judicial independence. To provide Bosnian citizens with an in-depth, step-by-step look at how the justice system functions, the Network supported the intensive training of 30 selected journalists in monitoring war crime trials. Their investigative reporting encouraged new witnesses to come forward and share their stories. These testimonies led to the first ever criminal investigation and prosecution of a woman accused of war crimes, as well as the prosecution of systemic rapes within a concentration camp in the Foca area.
In addition to mounting public pressure campaigns, the Network also worked directly with the Courts to produce much needed reforms. In April 2013, the Justice Network trained over 80 judges and prosecutors on how to strike a balance between the requirement for public hearings and the protection of personal data. The trainings ultimately encouraged judges to issue public judgments and indictments, a step that was formalized with the restructuring of the Personal Data Protection Agency. As a result of these advocacy efforts, the judicial system is now perceived as a more viable mechanism for legal recourse.