The Human Rights Ombudsmen in Bosnia and Herzegovina can only issue recommendations that are not binding for the institutions, which is quite problematic according to the Centre for Security Studies analysis.

By Mateja Agatonović (BCSP) / Photo: Pixabay

The Human Rights Ombudsmen in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) has the role of special state body responsible for the human rights protection and among others, to oversee security institutions at all levels in BiH.

The Ombudsmen considers corruption complaints in security institutions and violation of human rights of citizens or employees in the security sector. However, this body can only issue recommendations that are not binding for the institutions to which they relate.

In 2016, the Ombudsmen received 138 complaints indicating that police officers go beyond the limits of their legal powers, or that the police internal control has a formal role. In their addresses to the Ombudsmen, citizens express a lack of trust into these internal control mechanisms, as they see the conducted proceedings as being formal and inefficient. In most cases, internal control finds their complaints ill-founded.

On the other hand, the Ombudsmen also received a number of complaints lodged by police officers alleging a violation of their rights m the area of labor law.

One of the last year’s examples alleged that the traffic police officers of Brčko District have not been treated equally as other police officers since there is audio and video surveillance equipment installed in the official cars of this police branch and that they are subjected to the constant surveillance in the line of duty. The complaint also claims that Professional Standards Unit constantly interrogates this unit for the poor quality of audio records or failure to record some material or a car.

Ombudspersons have found that the allegations of the complainants of discrimination and unequal treatment are ill-founded, since they are installed with a goal of “safeguarding of legality, regularity, professionalism, and safety” of the police officers and since “video surveillance cameras are also for safety reasons installed in shopping malls, public and educational institutions – and nobody objects to that”.

In the course of 2015, the Ombudsmen had also received complaints from police officers, regarding the process of selection of candidates, i.e. recruitment, employee advancement within the police structures and the realization of pension rights. As in previous examples, Ombudsmen had issued recommendations to the competent law enforcement authorities, but such recommendations are often not taken seriously and are very rarely implemented in practice.

In 2015, the Ombudsmen received 135 complaints, 7 of which the citizens’ complaints concerning the work of the Citizens’ Complaint Board on Work of the Police Officers in Police Bodies, i.e. the Professional Standards Unit particularly stand out. These bodies carry out formal proceedings upon the complaints of citizens, usually concluding that the majority of them are unfounded or insufficiently supported by evidence.

The Reports on the Work of the Human Rights Ombudsmen of BiH 2015 also states that the main problem is the fact that citizens receive information about the conducted internal investigation only in the form of notification, without the benefit of a legal remedy.

Ombudsmen had recommended to the Ministry of Interior of Federation BiH, the Ministry of Interior of Republika Srpska, the Brčko District Police and the Ministries of Interior of all the cantons, to improve independence of internal control of the work of police officers, re-examine the existence of true independence of the organs that perform control of police officers, ensure two instances in the proceedings conducted upon the citizens’ complaints about the actions of police officers, and ensure systemic and continuous education of police officers on the topic of human rights.

CSS’s recommendations for improvement to the independent oversight of the police underlines that the existing laws should be amended and supplemented to ensure that external and internal authorities are allowed to carry out independent investigations in cases of suspected corrupt activities of police officers and the advocacy of changes to the provisions of the existing Law on Free Access to Information at all levels in BiH to improve the process of informing the public.

Related publication: “Assessment of Police Integrity in Bosnia and Herzegovina“.

TAGS: AnalysisBosnia and HerzegovinaExternal OversightSpecial Oversight Bodies