Bosnia and Herzegovina - April 2023
OHR moves to unblock government formation in the Federation
Government formation in the Federation has now been finalised, seven months after the elections in October 2022. Refik Lendo, Bosniak Vice President and member of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) had been blocking the appointment of the new government (which does not have any SDA ministers). The Office of the High Representative (OHR) used its “Bonn powers”, granted to the OHR by the Dayton Accords, to forward the proposed ministerial appointments to the Parliament without first obtaining Lendo’s signature. The House of Representatives subsequently confirmed the government composition, with 51 votes in favour, and one abstention. The OHR also accorded the Parliament a period of 12 months to agree to constitutional amendments that would prevent future blockages in government formation. The previous ministers in the Federation government had been serving in a technical mandate since 2018 in view of the protracted political stalemate.
Former Federation Prime Minister convicted of corruption over ventilator procurement
The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina found the former Prime Minister of the Federation, Fadil Novalic, and two of three co-accused guilty of corruption. Novalic was sentenced to four years in prison over the procurement of 100 overpriced ventilators from China in April 2020, a day after a state of emergency was declared due to the pandemic, at a cost of 10.5 million Bosnian marks. The former Minister of Finance, Jelka Milicevic, had also been under investigation but was acquitted. The trial began in February 2021. The investigation was initiated by the Canton of Sarajevo Prosecutor’s Office after it emerged that the procurement was conducted without a tender, and the selected company was poorly qualified to deliver the contract. Novalic, who had been serving in a technical mandate since 2018, is expected to appeal the decision, and has called the trial a “political showdown, whose outcome was known”.
OHR criminalises acceptance of bribes by public officials
The Office of the High Representative (OHR) enacted changes to the criminal codes of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the Federation entity, introducing political bribery as a criminal offense punishable by up to ten years in prison. The changes, which are imposed with immediate effect, are enacted on an interim basis until they are approved by the Parliaments at the state and Federation levels, respectively. According to the OHR, the amendments are designed to improve election integrity. An evaluation report of Bosnia and Herzegovina produced by the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption monitoring body in March 2023 noted a “legal vacuum in terms of corruption prevention policies,” particularly at the executive level.