EU Funds First BiH High Security State Prison

Speech by Ambassador Wigemark at the Presentation of the project of the construction of High Security State Prison

Dear Minister Grubeša, representatives of the Council of Europe Development Bank, representatives of the media, colleagues, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is a great pleasure to speak at this event today about such an important facility for Bosnia and Herzegovina. The making of this prison has been long. But as you can all see and as you have just heard, in recent times over the past two years some real progress has been made and I think we can now see very visibly that there will be a prison here very soon.

The Russian writer Dostoyevsky once said, and I will not quote in Russian, but in English: “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” And this is why this first High Security State Prison in Bosnia and Herzegovina is being built to meet European prison rules and will also ensure that basic principles respecting the human rights of people who are imprisoned or detained. But perhaps even more importantly, this prison will also allow the BiH Court and the Chief Prosecutor’s Office as well as the entity level legal institutions to prosecute high profile individuals sentenced for war crimes, organized crime, terrorism and corruption. And also the safety of all citizens of this country, should, as a result, reach a higher level.

The EU, as you already heard, has contributed, in a very significant way, to the construction and equipping of this prison. But I would also like to recognize the substantial assistance provided by grants from Sweden and the United States as well as loans from the Council of Europe Development Bank and of course, the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina that has also contributed through the State Ministry of Justice and of course we very much welcome all these contributions – this is a joint project. Like Minister Grubeša, I would also like to recognize the efforts by the Spanish Ambassador who has stepped in here shortly after his arrival, it is not the first time he is in Bosnia and Herzegovina and played a very important role in recent months, so thank you.

It is a bit chilly so I don’t want to speak too long, but I still also want to try to put this in a broader context. I think this state prison should be seen as a symbol for Rule of Law in this country, and also an important part of BiH’s journey towards the EU. I hope it will also contribute to post-war reconciliation and overall stability, not just in this county, but in the region as a whole. Improving Rule of Law, reform of the judiciary system for the whole country is a major priority both for the European Union and BiH. I don’t think it is a coincidence, although the timing may be coincidental, but as we are visiting this prison which will hopefully be opened in a year or so at the same time that there is a discussion among experts ongoing in Sarajevo on how to improve the efficiency of the state judiciary. Having adequate prison facilities that meet all international and European standards is of course, the last element of a chain that we call Rule of Law.

I am sure, as you can see and as you have heard from the presentations here, that anyone who is convicted of a crime and ends up staying in this facility, this prison, will be treated according to relevant human rights standards, that is important in itself. But what is more important is that you now have such a facility that did not exist before. And I really this think will help reinforce the legal system, first of all, as regards war crimes, but also in respect to overall organized crime and cases of corruption.

And I can only congratulate the Minister, the Ministry of Justice, the project managers for the hard work you are doing and I look forward to coming back here and opening this facility and being part of the opening of this facility – your facility, in the near future.

Thank you.