In the post-conflict period in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), the judicial system faced many challenges, including the perceived lack of judicial independence stemming from the former political system and emerging nationalist parties. In an attempt to separate powers, and suppress political interference in the courts, under the intense involvement of both the Office of the High Representative and the broader international community, the judicial system was reformed with the aim of not only improving its independence, but also enhancing its efficiency and effectiveness.
The first phase of reforms commenced in 2001. With the establishment of three High Judicial and Prosecutorial Councils (HJPCs) in 2002, their subsequent merger resulted in one HJPC in 2004. In 2003, the Ministry of Justice of BiH, the Court of BiH and the Prosecutor’s office of BiH were established. The drafting of a criminal legal framework at state level quickly ensued. In June 2008, the Justice Sector Reform Strategy of BiH was adopted by relevant justice authorities.
In terms of challenges, of the many challenges facing the justice sector today, four jurisdictions with unharmonised legal frameworks, fragmented institutional set-up and source of budgeting present the greatest challenges – all of which lead to huge inefficiencies.
As the most generous donor to the justice sector, initial EU assistance focused on essential issues, such as the infrastructure and capital investments in the courts and prosecutor offices, and the establishment and the financing of the Registry for the Court and Prosecutor’s Office of BiH. Support has also been provided to penitentiary reform in an aim to build capacities, and bring prison standards closer to those of the EU.