Published by Save the Children uk, Bosnia and Herzegovina Programme


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State institutions and services covering activities related to juvenile offending, both in terms of policy and practice, belong primarily to areas of Justice, Internal Affairs, and Social Care, but also to a lesser degree to the domains of education and information.

Institutions and services within the system of juvenile offending fall under the competence of various ministries (at the cantonal and the entity level in the FBiH, and at entity level in the RS). The competencies of these ministries often overlap with other state or municipal bodies. There is no specific institution in BiH to deal exclusively with issues of juvenile offending. Similarly, there are no inter-ministerial bodies at either the state or entity level dealing with these issues. Numerous professionals in various fields recognise these facts as a gap in present practice, but also as a possible recommendation for the future (see herein under “Key Recommendations”).
When the system of juvenile offending is perceived in a narrow sense as a system in which responsibilities of sub-systems such as justice, international affairs and social care are interspersed, it is important to recognise the role and competencies of each state institution.

Justice System

The Ministries of Justice36 in the Federation of BiH, and in the Republika Srpska are responsible for administrative supervision and implementation of criminal sanctions, provision of assistance in the education of judges and prosecutors.
In the Republika Srpska, the Ministry of Justice is also responsible for the organisation and functioning of judicial institutions, penal/correctional and educational/reformatory institutions. In the RS, the Ministry of Justice actively participates in the preparation and adoption of legal projects within its jurisdiction, introduces by-laws needed for the implementation of laws, and provides information about its work through the media.

The Federation Ministry of Justice performs administrative, professional and other duties pertaining to the competencies of the Federation in the domain of judicial institutions and administration; renders assistance in training of judges and prosecutors; carries out administrative supervision and enforces criminal sanctions.

High Judicial Councils have been established under the auspices of international mediators and experts, with adequate remuneration of judges to enable their impartial administration of justice. The aim of this reform is to remove courts from the jurisdiction of Ministries of Justice, thereby creating completely independent courts. This solution means that the justice system is financially independent, and its budget is a separate item in the state budget. These budgets are also drawn up and allocated by the High Court Council.37
Centres for the education of judges and prosecutors in the Republika Srpska and the Federation of BiH are established under a decision by the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina. The programmes aim to give judges and prosecutors an understanding of the principles of openness, professionalism and impartiality.38 Activities in these centres encompass initial training for people who intend to practice law as judges or public prosecutors, and professional development for judges and prosecutors. The centres issue certificates for completion of initial training and fulfilment of the minimum conditions of professional development envisaged under the law.

Internal Affairs

Ministries of Internal Affairs39 in both entities protect the constitutional order and prevent forcible violation of this order. They carry out administrative and professional work related to the protection of life and personal security of citizens, the prevention and detection of criminal acts, the search and apprehension of perpetrators of criminal acts, and the maintenance of public order and peace. They are also responsible for the training and development of the active and reserve police forces.

Social Care

The Ministry of Health and Social Care in the Republika Srpska is responsible for policy development in the social care system, supervision over the activities of social welfare centres and social welfare services, approval of the appointment of management personnel, and dealing with complaints filed by users against social welfare centres. The Ministry of Labour and Social Policy in the Federation of BiH carries out administrative and other professional work in the area of social policy, social security and solidarity, family protection, adoption and fostering, and social care.

Organisation of Work

Reorganisation of the police service in BiH was undertaken with UNIPTF after 1996. The police service does not anticipate the creation of a special service for juvenile offending nor inspectors tasked to work specifically with juveniles (as was the case until reorganisation). Depending on the nature of an offence, the juvenile suspect is directed to a specific police department that deals with that type of offence. The part of the police administration that deals with crime, the so-called Crime Police Sector, comprises various departments. Within the General Crime Department across the country there is a sub-department dealing with theft and major larceny.40 As those are the most common offences among minors, juvenile suspects are often dealt with by this department.

It should be noted that efforts are being made to employ women inspectors in every department across the country. When apprehensions and searches are carried out, a woman police officer carries out a body search of juvenile females, whereas interrogation is conducted at the department that deals with the type of offence. At the Department for Manslaughter and Sexual Assaults in both entities, a female inspector will conduct investigations involving female juveniles.

In some police institutions such as the Centre of Public Security in Banja Luka, there is a Unit for Juvenile Delinquency that deals with children below the age of 14 and with girl offenders. The scope of its activities has not, however, been precisely defined.
There is a difference of opinion between staff employed in internal affairs bodies over whether the previous practice of employing juvenile inspectors was better than the existing one, where there are no such specialists. In any case, the current organisation of work should be taken into account, so that training is given to the largest possible number of inspectors as well as front line police officers.

Current Practice
The role of the police, measured in terms of legal consequences, is of much less relevance than that of the judiciary and the prosecution. However, it is exceptionally important to bear in mind that the police authorities are the first state institutions with whom a child suspected of violating the law comes into contact.
Academics and practitioners from across the country who were interviewed for this study agree unanimously that the minor’s first experience of contact with internal affairs bodies may significantly influence his or her subsequent attitude towards public order officials, his or her future behaviour, and the effects of any criminal proceedings.41

Regardless of legal provisions, a child’s impression of contacts with the police will affect not only legal solutions, but the practical work of the police in all phases of the judicial process, whether it be interrogation at the police station or deprivation of freedom (i.e. the juvenile is held in custody prior to a trial).

The staff of all internal affairs bodies contacted for the purpose of this analysis, irrespective of their position or rank, agree that practical work with juveniles is significantly different from work with adults, even in cases where the law does not make a clear distinction. In practice, police work with children in BiH demonstrates the fact that there is awareness that such work involves persons who are not fully mature.

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