Parliamentary oversight of the police in Bosnia and Herzegovina should improve if the Draft Law on the Parliamentary Oversight is fully adopted and implemented, based on the Centre for Security Studies POINTPULSE report.
By Mateja Agatonović (BCSP)
Parliamentary procedure for the preparation of the Law on Parliamentary Oversight will be conducted during the next session scheduled for 26 July 2017. Its adoption should contribute to a more precise regulation of this area, particularly with regard to the exercise of more efficient and more transparent parliamentary oversight of the law enforcement agencies’ work.
This law is aimed at establishing a comprehensive and effective framework for all oversight activities performed by the federal Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina (PA BiH). Regulating the supervision of the Parliament over the work of all budgetary institutions of BiH, the bodies of administration and institutions with public authorizations is yet to be seen in practice but should turn out to be an important mechanism for integrity building.
The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) has positively reviewed the Draft law.
“The merit of adopting a special law on parliamentary oversight is that it allows to impose obligations on officials of the federal executive bodies (and, possibly, other individuals) to comply with the requests of parliamentary oversight bodies and, generally, cooperate with the Parliamentary Assembly in good faith”, explained ODIHR in their opinion.
Legislation will introduce hearings, inquiries, the review of reports submitted by executive bodies, oral and written questions to the executive, interpellation, and votes on motions of no confidence against the Council of Ministers or requests for its reconstitution. Law will also enable the MPs to seek the assistance of auditors or other experts outside BiH institutions. On the list of measures (when irregularities are established), there may also be a proposal for dismissal of the responsible person, and media reports could also be taken as a reason for parliamentary scrutiny.
Currently, the Joint Committee on Defence and Security (JCDS) is the parliamentary body in BiH which has been controlling the work of security sector institutions, including law enforcement agencies, since 2004.
Still functioning through the Rules of Procedure of both Houses of Parliament, JCDS continuously monitors and analyses the implementation of the adopted conclusions and recommendations by the security sector. On several occasions, JCDS has used visits to certain law enforcement agencies as a control mechanism to ensure the implementation of conclusions and recommendations in practice. Annual reports on the work of the Committee from 2014 and 2015 showed that a visit as a form of control mechanism contributes significantly to improving systematic oversight of the work of institutions of the security sector.
In its work JCDS faced certain problems. One of them was insufficient cooperation with the Council of Ministers of BiH. There have been cases when at the time of consideration of certain draft laws the proposer would fail to appear before the Council of Ministers, thus preventing the Committee from holding a planned debate. The Committee is also burdened by the lack of human resources caused by an insufficient number of members of the Parliament, as well as the lack of human resources within the Secretariat of the Committee in relation to the amount of work that falls under its purview.
At the level of the Federation BiH, external oversight of the work of the Federal Ministry of Interior and the Federal Police Administration is provided also by the working bodies of both Houses of the Federal Parliament in charge of security matters.
These are the Committee for Security of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Security of the House of Peoples. These committees have been established in accordance with the Rules of Procedure of both Houses of the Federal Parliament. Both committees have a wide range of competencies. One of the most important is consideration of issues relating to the system and policies in the field of security. The importance of these committees is reflected in the fact that they are allowed to conduct investigations and request testimony, evidence and documents to this end.
Oversight of the work of the police in the entity of Republika Srpska is carried out through the Committee on Security which operates within the National Assembly of the Republika Srpska. This Committee provides opinions, views, and recommendations, and propose adequate measures to the National Assembly. The Securities Committee has seven members who are elected from various parliamentary parties, provided that the chairman of the Committee is elected from the 13 ranks of the opposition.
At the cantonal level, supervision of the work of the police is carried out by independent parliamentary committees. However, the general public has not shown much interest in their work. Many committees never publish annual activity reports or minutes from meetings, and it is therefore impossible to assess their work in this area.
At the level of the Brčko District of BiH, the Committee for Public Security and Oversight of the Work of the Police, as a parliamentary body, monitors the work of the district police in aspects that concern respect of the rights of citizens, discusses issues relating to alleged or established violations of rights and freedoms of citizens by the district police, and identifies problems involving the work of the district police and proposes measures for their elimination. However, as in the previous example, the public is deprived of even the most basic information about the work of this Committee.
The majority of oversight bodies in BiH do not sufficiently use the existing communications resources, authority or legal powers. All police institutions have, however, some external mechanisms of oversight and control. Adoption of the new Law on the Parliamentary Oversight will be a positive step in the evolution of the political system and security institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina.