Stjepan Lebo

Josip Juraj Strossmayer University of Osijek, Faculty of Law

The Croatian community was shocked, when in 2016. the Security and Intelligence Agency published their report in which it noted: “Corruption in public administration, public and state institutions and public companies is the most significant challenge for the Republic of Croatia, which also threatens market functionaries and economic growth. Corruption reduces tax incomes and the state budget, whilst causing insecurity and loss of trust in state institutions.”

Additionally, the report concludes: “Corruption indirectly affects the national security, so the Security and intelligence agency, in cooperation with other organizations in charge of this matter, provides support to the prevention and suppression of corruption. The biggest concern is the attempt to influence political, judiciary and other decision making institutions. ”
The Croatian people were aware of the problems and challenges involving the Croatian judiciary, but this was the first public document which presented the corruption in judicial system as a threat to the national security.

The content of the report, available to the public, refers to the complete judicial system. The presidential and the prime minister cabinet, due to legal privilege, have access to a special, more detailed report. According to the media, the biggest threat is corruption that exists in part of decision making judiciary and this information is especially disturbing.

According to the above mentioned report, there are more than 1700 judges in Croatia – and among them there are 20 judges who present a real threat to the Croatian national security.

In reference to the Global Corruption Barometer for 2013., a study by which the Transparency International  establishes citizen’s opinion about the presence of corruption in certain spheres of  life in their country,  presented the following surveys results:

–  21% of Croatian citizens believe that corruption has increased in the past two years,

–  51% of Croatian citizens believe that corruption has stagnated in the last two years,

–  29% of Croatian citizens think it has declined.

A number of thousand survey participants were asked to rank from 1 (environment free of corruption) to 5 (full corruption environment) offered subjects. They ranked the following subjects as follows:
– Political parties and judiciary, (4.0)

– public servants, (3.9)

– representative bodies and the public health, (3.9)

– the police, (3.5)

– private sector, (3.5)

– educational system, (3.5)

– religious organizations, (2.8)

– non-governmental organizations, (2.8)

– military. (2.5)

In its 2016. report on the independence and efficiency of judicial systems in the European Union, the Republic of Croatia is better than only three other members regarding the public opinion and perception of the judicial systems.

According to the survey, 59% of citizens believe that they can not expect a fair trial in Croatian courts, and 48% have no trust in the independence of judges and state attorneys.

The main reasons for the distrust of citizens in the judicial system are the length of court proceedings and uneven judicial practice, which also negatively affects legal security. As already mentioned above, Croatia has about 1700 judges, which is ranking the country on the top of the European Union by the number of judges. But, despite the high number of judges, problems arise because their professional development is not available due to the lack of financial resources.

In the annual report of the Security and Intelligence Agency published in 2017., corruption has remained one of the biggest challenges, but its impact on the judicial system was not mentioned.

The subject of how corruption in the judiciary could endanger national security was re-updated in 2017 because of a series of omissions, as well as criminal offenses for which employees of the justice ministries have been accused of. One arbitration should be mentioned in particular – the one about the INA – MOL dispute. The reason for this can be found in the series of omissions by the judicial bodies of the Republic of Croatia, which have contributed to the adoption of unfavorable decisions for Croatia.

Corruption in the judiciary represents a real and serious threat to community life because it distorts the balance of justice, as well as the legal system established on the basis of the Constitution and the Laws. These conditions are a fertile ground for the growth of crime rates in the state, as well as the development of criminal organizations. The presence of corruption in the judiciary is further aggravated by the external, global, impacts and the challenges faced by the modern state today. A system, in which the bribe is accepted as a “modus operandi” is additionally exposed to constant threats in the form of terrorism which, unfortunately, has become ubiquitous.

It should also be taken into account, that conventional warfare methods became a subsidiary instrument and wars run without their official disclosure, and thus, through the destabilization of one of the three branches of government, in this case judicial corruption, results can be achieved, that endanger national security and the very survival of that state. Corruption is a major problem in any form and at all levels, and therefore we all need to be proactive in its suppression, with the aim to maximize the potential of our society.