The European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice

The effects of the economic crisis on
the functioning of the judicial system in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The global financial crisis hit the Bosnia and Herzegovina’s economy in the mid of 2008. Recession and reduction of the level of public revenues inevitably led to the reduction of available budgetary resources, which impacted the budgets of courts and prosecutors offices. Therefore, the initially approved budget for 2008 for the judiciary as a whole, which amounted to 105 million €, was reduced through a process of rebalancing of the budget by 3.8%.

Trend of budget reduction continued in 2009, so the final approved amount for the judiciary was 95.3 million €. The budgets were partially recovered, primarily because of loans approved by the International Monetary Fund, so the judicial budgets approved in 2010 increased for 3.3% in relation to 2009.

Comparing the funds approved in 2010 with the initially approved funds for the year of 2008, the greatest reductions, in relative terms, relate to capital investments (-67.9%). Costs of materials and services were reduced by 15%, while the costs for gross salaries and other compensations are approximately equal (- 1.5%).

In relation to what was said above, it should be noted that the judicial institutions in BiH have been granted significant donor funds, intended for various judiciary reform project including the reconstruction of the old buildings, and purchase of the essential IT equipment, that partially mitigated the consequences of the crisis.

However, the budget reductions have inevitably affected the normal functioning of courts and prosecutors offices. Specifically, most courts were not able to implement the planned employment, which is necessary to reduce the backlog. In some drastic cases, courts are faced with a lack of basic office supplies. Sometimes, the payments for purchase of office and other material were postponed for several months, as the suppliers conditioned the new delivery with the payment of those overdue bills. Some courts and prosecutors offices were given warnings before the cut of services for unpaid utility bills, and in some rare individual cases, provision of these services was temporarily stopped. Delays in payments mostly affect costs of lawyers in mandatory defense cases, witnesses, and experts, which were usually paid several months after the actual service.

The effect of the crisis has emphasized the problem of fragmented funding of judicial institutions. Specifically, courts and are funded from 14 different sources of financing (state level, 2 entities - Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska), 10 cantons within the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Brčko District) which leads to an uneven provision of resources for the courts and prosecutors offices, which all leads to distortion of the principle of “equal access to justice” for citizens in BiH. For example, while courts and prosecutors offices in one canton face the lack of elementary office material such as office papers or toners, courts and prosecutors offices in another canton have sufficient budgets to fund increased number of judges and capital investments.

Aforementioned reduction of funds has not yet significantly affected the productivity of courts and prosecutors offices. Increase of the approved budgetary funds in 2010 and the continuous help and assistance from donors have reduced the gap between the budgetary needs of the courts and prosecutors offices and available resources.

Although the courts and prosecutors offices still successfully cope with the current inflow of cases, it is questionable whether they will be able to respond to the continuous trend of growth in the number of incoming cases, and especially to solve the problem of large backlog.

Rusmir Šabeta
Head of the Judicial Administration Department /
National correspondent for Bosnia and Herzegovina for the CEPEJ
High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Kraljice Jelene 88 - 71000 Sarajevo - Bosna i Hercegovina
Tel: +387 (0)33 707 500, Faks: +387 (0)33 707 550