U.S. Department of State: Corruption remains prevalent in many political and economic institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina

EPA/MIKE THEILER

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The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor published Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2017. 

The report dedicated to Bosnia and Herzegovina reads that while the law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, authorities in the country did not implement the law effectively nor prioritize public corruption as a serious problem. “Officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity, and corruption remained prevalent in many political and economic institutions”, the report reads.

The multitude of state, entity, cantonal, and municipal administrations, each with the power to establish laws and regulations affecting business, created a system that lacked transparency and provided opportunities for corruption. The multilevel government structure gave corrupt officials multiple opportunities to demand ‘service fees’, especially in the local government institutions”.

According to the report, analysts considered the legal framework for prevention of corruption to be satisfactory across almost all levels of government, and attributed the absence of high-profile prosecutions to a lack of political will. “Many state-level institutions tasked with fighting corruption, such as the Agency for Prevention and Fight against Corruption, had limited authorities and remained under-resourced. Prosecutions were also considered generally ineffective and subject to political manipulation, often resulting in suspended sentences in the case of conviction”, the report reads.

Furthermore, the report noted that the “most significant human rights issues included harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; restrictions on expression and the press, including intimidation, and threats against journalists and media outlets; widespread government corruption; crimes involving violence against minorities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons”.

The OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) noted that the 2014 general elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina were held in a competitive environment where candidates were able to campaign freely and fundamental freedoms of expression, association, and assembly were respected. The OSCE/ODIHR further noted that elections were efficiently administered, but widespread credible allegations of electoral contestants manipulating the composition of polling station commissions reduced stakeholder confidence in the integrity of the process”, the report concludes.