The POINTPULSE network presents the achievements of parliamentary oversight of the police in the region.
The members of the POINTPULSE network agree that parliamentary oversight of the police is not up to the task, mainly because of the political reasons. Another flaw is non-existence of separated parliamentary committee overseeing the work of the police since the relevant bodies of the parliaments in the region deal with home affairs, defense, and intelligence. Human and material resources available to the corresponding committees is inadequate. Transparency of the work of parliaments upgraded, but there is still room for improvement.
Politicization of the committee’s work is present in almost all cases in the region. In Montenegro opposition MPs in the Committee have tried to exercise their right to hold a control hearing at the request of one-third of the members, but that was prevented as the invited representatives of the executive did not attend the scheduled meeting due to alleged inability.
Kosovo opposition members boycotted the Committee on Internal Affairs, Security, and Supervision of the Kosovo Security Force during the political crisis lasting from mid- 2014 to the first half of 2016.
In Serbia, the good practice of appointing MPs belonging to opposition parties as heads of Committees dealing with security issues has been abandoned, and the parliamentary majority generally avoids discussing sensitive topics or available Assembly procedures by outvoting the opposition MPs.
A similar case is with Albania, where the opposition objections and requests were not reflected, having been overwhelmed by the votes of the majority, and where parliamentary oversight tasks are hindered by political influences high political polarization.
Parliamentary Committee of Bosnia and Herzegovina also deals with insufficient cooperation with the Council of Ministers. 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 infighting of political parties was in recent period felt the most in Macedonia, where political crisis ultimately resulted in early parliamentary elections, after which tensions that ultimately resulted in violence in the Assembly Palace kept the Parliament from working until the first half of 2017.
All of the committees in Western Balkans tasked with direct monitoring police integrity are also tasked with wider security issues. Their sessions usually consist of discussing draft legislation on security and defense. This fact paired with a lees-tan ideal track record in holding regular meetings points out towards missed opportunities for discussion of problems that police in the region face.
One of the reasons why these Committees don’t hold regular sessions is not just the political instability or lockdown that we have mentioned, but also the lack of administrative staff and expertise for conduction of thorough checks of the police work. All of them suffer from lack of human resources, financial means and expertise to implement the full force of parliamentary oversight.
Transparency of parliamentary information is better, but there is still room for improvement. Committee’s day-to-day operations are not fully available to the public, so it is up to civil society and the media to inform the public of this process. Website of the national assemblies in the region are updated less than regularly, but that is also due to the infrequent session of the relevant bodies of the Parliament.
The conclusion is that parliamentary oversight of the police in the Western Balkans is still developing while the existing means for achieving police oversight are also underused.
The case of Bosnia and Herzegovina with their adoption of the new Law on Parliamentary Oversight should provide a good model, as it enables the MPs to seek the assistance of auditors or other experts outside state institutions. If this power is coupled with separation of Committee and Parliament budget, it could be expected a drastic increase in effectiveness of external police oversight. Visits to the security institutions, inquiry process and control hearings, in this case, wouldn’t be just mechanisms that exist on paper but would become important tools for evaluating police integrity. Of course, only in the case that political infighting and partisanship is also reduced to reasonable democratic levels.
Although there has been some progress in the parliamentary openness to the public, weak application of police oversight mechanisms, vague legal provisions, the complex institutional setting allow wide margins of discretion by the executive, hampering effective parliamentary control and oversight.
The majority of oversight bodies in Bosnia and Herzegovina do not sufficiently use the existing communications resources, authority or legal powers. 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.
Parliamentary oversight of the Kosovo Police faces challenges such as lack of professional capacities of the parliamentary body responsible for the police due to the low number of its administrative staff, while the work and dynamics of this parliamentary Committee were also affected by the political crisis which started in mid-2014.
Existing external oversight mechanisms, such as hearings, remain underused, but Macedonian MPs make good use of parliamentary questions. Additional factor hampering the oversight and the work of the Parliament was the political instability and the political crisis which ultimately resulted in early parliamentary elections.
Montenegrin system of parliamentary oversight was characterized by a lack of effort or cooperation with the public in 2016. Although some progress has been made, the oversight bodies have yet to achieve the necessary efficiency. The Parliament has been failing to oversee the application of secret surveillance measures used by the Police Directorate.
Parliamentary oversight of the police in Serbia is not effective despite the adoption of the new Law on Police. Due to the Presidential elections in Serbia and the decision of President of the National Assembly of dubious legality, Parliament was in a state of lockdown and only one session of this Committee was held in 2017.
Click photo to download assessment reports on police integrity in the Western Balkans.