The head of the highest judicial body denies the allegations, claims to be a victim of illegal intelligence activities.
The head of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s highest judicial body said he was resigning following pressure from fellow Western judges and diplomats to resign over allegations of corruption, which he denied.
Milan Tegeltija, a Serb, said on Thursday that he would quit the Superior Council of Magistrates and Prosecutors (HJPC), which he has chaired since 2014, because he could no longer do the job because he fears for his safety.
The HJPC, which appoints the country’s magistrates, was created in 2004 to safeguard the independence and impartiality of the judiciary in ethnically divided Bosnia in the aftermath of the 1992-1995 war.
But an independent report commissioned by the European Union last year concluded that it was often seen as an irresponsible center of power run by people serving the interests of a network of political patronage and influence.
Last month, a local news portal published an audio recording in which Tegeltija allegedly advised another council judge on how to get around nepotism charges while employing a relative in the court system.
Tegeltija said the recording, which sparked public criticism against him and the institution, was a fake.
Addressing a press conference Thursday in Banja Luka, in the Serbian-led entity, he said he was the victim of illegal intelligence activity and blamed Bosnia’s largest Bosnian political party, the SDA , for orchestrating a media campaign against him.
Other HJPC judges also called the recording fake, but last week the Council asked Tegeltija to consider resigning because his public image was damaging his relations with international partners.
The EU delegation and the US Embassy in Bosnia also called on Tegeltija to step down.
While welcoming his resignation, the US Embassy also said that this was “just one of many steps the HJPC must take to restore confidence with the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
All office holders in the justice sector and the HJPC members who appoint them must adhere to the highest ethical standards. All judges and prosecutors must take steps to adequately investigate and prosecute corruption at all levels, including when it appears among them.
– U.S. Embassy Sarajevo (@USEmbassySJJ) December 10, 2020
“All officials in the justice sector and the members of the HJPC who appoint them must be held to the highest ethical standards,” he said.
“All judges and prosecutors must take steps to adequately investigate and prosecute corruption at all levels, including when it appears among them.”
The Office of the High Representative of Bosnia (OHR) also urged Tegeltija to step down last month.
“In order to restore the integrity of this leading judicial function, Mr. Tegeltija must demonstrate professional and personal honesty and do what is expected after the continually inadequate performance of his duties,” OHR told the local media.
“The HJPC deserves a different and more professional president.”