COPPOLA: I CANNOT SAY THE POLICE REFORM WAS A SUCCESS, AS IT IS STILL NOT IMPLEMENTED
Dnevni avaz, 20 September 2008 - Brigadier General Vincenzo Coppola is ending his mandate as the Head of the EU Police Mission to BiH, during which the demanding police reform was initiated and new laws on the police were adopted. However, the implementation is still to be seen. General Coppola said that the authorities are late with the implementation of what was agreed on. In addition, he talked about the campaign against organized crime and the latest operation of SIPA in relation to abuses with issuing of the identification documents. He also mentioned the successful cooperation of BiH police agencies and the Italian Police in a major investigation into organized crime.
Q: EUPM has launched the campaign in which you appeal on citizens to help uncover organized criminal acts. Why was the campaign launched now? Is it a sign that BiH is now facing that form of crime?
A: Actually, the campaign had been planned for some time and this kind of a campaign requires time in order to have proper effects. But now we have a great opportunity to support it with results. We had good results in the fight against organized crime lately. I cannot say that it could be based only on that, but those good results might support it and add certain credibility. I also have to mention the Gaši case and the latest CIPS operation, as well as other actions that are underway.
Q: Where is BiH on a map of organized crime in Europe?
A: A level of organized crime is the same as in the EU. Well, not on the level of the Union, but on the level of all European states. In comparison to some states, BiH has less organized crime. This is still a transit country due to a fact that it has very long borders that are technically difficult to control. When it comes to results, one must admit that there are some pretty good indicators. There is a basis for respect of other polices in the region. I will give you the example: We are now conducting a major investigation that involves Italy and BiH. Italian police and prosecution are pleased with the way in which BiH police are conducting investigations and in which prosecutor’s offices are functioning.
The wrong impression
Q: That joint investigation of Italian and BiH police forces, is it about organized crime or terrorism or something else?
A: It involves organized crime, not terrorism, and it is a quite extensive investigation in which I am also interested personally for obvious reasons. It produces good results for the time being. Naturally, I cannot reveal any more details, but it is clear that BiH police forces and prosecutor’s offices are cooperating very well with Italian police.
Q: When the police reform issue was initiated in BiH, the main reason for it was that BiH police structures, as they were prior to the reform, were not capable of fighting organized crime or severe forms of criminal offences properly. Now you mentioned some good results, while the reform was not even implemented yet.
A: One should remember the period that has passed since we started talking about the police reform- since 2004. That was when a certain police reform was asked for. Four years later, there has been some progress in the situation. The police had good results and the cooperation has been enhanced together with professional standards and technical equipment. Things are getting better, but we still need the reform, although not to the extent that was necessary back in 2004. We will continue our work on that. The EUPM’s strategy is to work on harmonization of legislation of all police institutions that should be working based on the same laws.Besides, the coordination needs to be improved. We have 15 police bodies that have improved, more or less, their operation, but need to coordinate their actions better. Only after the Constitutional reform, a certain wider changes in this field can be considered.
Q: You speak about the coordination among police institutions in BiH, but we have the latest example of the investigation into malversations within CIPS, where the heads of RS Police criticized the work of SIPA because of the arrests of police officers who were involved in the abuses…
A:Technically speaking, the CIPS investigation was conducted very well. They did a really good job and there is no room for dispraise. I respect the role of the prosecutor and the responsibility of SIPA. But one other issue concerns me. If they fail to include each other in early stages of investigations, there is an impression that some kind of mistrust is present between them. It is unacceptable. Police agencies must work together and trust each other. One might think that SIPA has failed to inform the RS Police because they do not trust them, which is not true. The RS Police is functioning very well and their Director Uroš Penais a professional. Then why such wrong impression?
Q: So, in your opinion, SIPA made a mistake?
A:I am still compiling information on the case, on what was going on before. I must say that SIPA Director Mirko Lujićwas doing his job correctly.
Q: This is a big investigation in which police officers were arrested and heads were accused of abuses in issuing identification documents. How do you comment on the investigation as it involves police officers?
A: Yes, it is a big case, the investigation that is still ongoing. I am convinced that it will produce some more positive results.
The matter of competence
Q: In which phase is the implementation of the police reform and the laws that the EU defined as prerequisites for BiH’s SAA signing?
A: There are delays, they are late in many things, for example in appointments of directors of new police agencies and other matters that need to be completed. The delay is not that tragic, but there is slowness in fulfilling of what was agreed on.
Q: According to the information we have, BiH Security Minister has delivered to the BiH CoM a list of candidates for the posts of directors of three police agencies, but he did not nominate the best amongst them. Is that correct?
A: The Minister has done his part of the work and that is not the issue. The problem is that the appointment of the director for police coordination is not in the competence of the MoS, but the Parliament and the Independent Board. I believe that nothing will be done about that prior to the local elections because of the existing tensions.
Politics defines the issue of extradition
Q: How do you comment on the latest initiative coming from Croatia that all countries in the region should attempt to reach an agreement on extradition of fugitives with double citizenships who are hiding in neighboring countries?
A:You see, a political influence is crucial in such decisions. In BiH it is much more obvious and it is understandable. I am not saying that it is acceptable, but understandable. There are periods when similar initiatives are being raised, and then it all stops, just to re-appear again later. Now Croatia is demanding that from BiH and we are monitoring the situation. We want to see what changes will be necessary, as certain laws and procedures would have to be changed. I doubt that the process will be completed any time soon. However, generally, the police are aware of the fact that it is necessary. I am not sure the politics is aware of how much it is needed.