The rule of law and the fight against corruption are two concepts often mentioned together. In fact, the fight against corruption is just one part of the larger picture known as the rule of law.
The rule of law implies respecting several principles that are as old as the ancient states, and, indeed, were defined in ancient Greece. The basic principle is that everyone is equal before the law. In other words, the severity of punishment is influenced by the severity of the committed crime, and not by family, political, or other similar connections.
An efficient judiciary is also one of the basic principles. This means that judicial institutions, prosecutors’ offices and courts, not only should but also must decide on a particular case as soon as possible. The fact that there are court cases in B&H where investigation, the judicial process and, finally, the start of execution of sentencing, are sometimes delayed for several years means that the B&H judiciary does not adequately represent the rule of law.
According to a survey published on the www.eu-monitoring.ba website, the duration of proceedings in civil cases in B&H lasts for an average of 354 days. In cases of disputes regarding discrimination, the average length of proceedings is 718 days, and, finally, we have an average duration of 313 days for labour dispute proceedings.
Moreover, there are numerous cases where court proceedings last for more than a few years, and, in some cases, longer than 10 years. In a number of such cases, citizens who are trying to obtain justice through the courts often initiate appeals to the Constitutional Court of B&H due to the inappropriate length of proceedings. Based on these appeals, the Constitutional Court has in the past 10 years made more than 1,400 decisions, resulting in competent authorities at various administrative levels having been obliged to pay 1.8 million BAM in compensation to appellants.
In comparison, the average duration of litigation in civil proceedings in EU countries is 282 days. The leader in this segment is Lithuania, where such disputes are settled within 55 days, Austria within 129, and the Czech Republic within 154 days. With its average duration of court proceedings, B&H is in line with Slovenia and Bulgaria, while in Croatia, Italy and Malta civil proceedings last much longer than in B&H: 498 in Croatia, 533 in Italy, and 889 in Malta.
Another important segment is decision enforcement. Final and enforceable decisions of the courts, regardless of whether from a municipal, supreme or constitutional court, must be implemented without delay. They are not to be commented on, simply implemented, regardless of whether one approves of them or not.