SARAJEVO — Today the Commission of International Legal Experts appointed by Bosnian Prime Minister Edhem Bicakcic recommended the establishment of a Special Federal Prosecutor and Anti-Corruption Task Force to fight corruption in Bosnia. The recommendation was contained in a lengthy report on corruption in Bosnia released by the Commission today in Sarajevo. The Commission’s members are eminent international lawyers with extensive experience in anti-corruption efforts around the world, as well as specific expertise concerning Bosnia. The Commission includes several attorneys from McDermott Will & Emery:Jeffrey Bates and Michael Kendall of the Boston office.
The Commission was established to look into corruption in Bosnia following the publication of an article in The New York Times in August 1999 alleging that up to $1 billion in international aid money and domestic funds had been stolen or was missing through fraud by "nationalist leaders."
The Commission found that the domestic corruption problem in Bosnia is very real and is the result of a complex interaction of factors which is in many ways unique to Bosnia. These factors include the relatively recent emergence of the country from a devastating war; the persistence of the networks that grew up to provide arms and supplies during that war and of the ethnic conflicts that sparked it; the weak central institutions and institutionalized ethnic divisions created by the Dayton Accords; the extreme physical and political difficulties in controlling the country’s borders; the efforts of ethnic partitionists to disrupt the effective operation of the new state; and the uncertainties and disorder that inevitably accompany the transition of former communist states to liberal democratic institutions and free markets.
Nonetheless, the Commission found that many necessary steps have been taken by various Bosnian and international authorities and organizations to fight this corruption. Many of the relevant laws have been modernized, and important additional improvements are under active consideration. With the vigorous assistance of international bodies, Federation law enforcement authorities are becoming more aggressive, expert and effective in fighting corruption.
Consequently, the Commission focused its study and recommendations concerning improvements on identifying and overcoming the remaining obstacles to the swift and sure enforcement of anti-corruption laws. Based on its experience elsewhere and its interviews with law enforcement officials, prosecutors, judges, government officials, legislators, media representatives and representatives of international organizations, the Commission recommended the appointment of a Special Federal Prosecutor to head an Anti-Corruption Task Force. The Task Force, modelled on successful precedents in North America and Western Europe, would be led by the Special Prosecutor and would include specially trained assistant prosecutors and trained police investigators. The Commission further recommended that various law enforcement tools utilized by such task forces elsewhere be adapted to use by the Bosnian Task Force.
The Commission recommended a package of measures to enhance the independence and expertise of law enforcement bodies and the judiciary. The most important of these measures are increased salaries, public financial disclosures by officials and training.
The Commission found that the most effective progress in fighting corruption in Bosnia—as elsewhere in the world—has come through collaborative efforts of Bosnian working groups and international experts. Accordingly, the Commission recommended that the details of these measures and the Task Force be developed by a specially created Bosnian working group assisted by experts from key international organizations which have expressed their willingness to do so.
Finally, the Commission made a number of other recommendations to enhance the fight against corruption in the Federation. These include requiring annual, public financial disclosure statements by public officials and officials of state enterprises, completing the extradition treaty with Croatia, where a number of persons suspected of corruption crimes have fled, and establishment of a state-level anti-corruption commission to harmonize and coordinate anti-corruption policies and measures involving both entities.
The Commission’s members are: Abram Chayes, Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at the Harvard Law School; Keith Highet, Chairman of the Organization of American States Inter-American Juridical Committee; Vasvija Vidovic, Bosnian lawyer and former Representative and Liaison to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia; and Paul Williams, Professor of International Law at the American University Law School. The Commission was assisted in its work by McDermott, Will & Emery.