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Whistleblowing - a new story for Bosnia and Herzegovina

View on the city from the hotel during sunsetTable of contents:


Last time we discussed the law in Serbia: now we feel obligated to broaden the discussion and talk about its neighboring country. So, the Bosnian approach is on today's agenda.

It seems like the term "whistleblowing" has always existed: the history of corruption crimes takes centuries; the number of people who reported it is also imposing. However, many countries still have no specific law for whistleblowers or implemented it a few years ago due to external pressure. The latter is exactly what happened to Bosnia and Herzegovina; the demand for a new legislature existed long before 2014 when it finally found its realization.


Brand-new law

New, but not original; Law on Whistleblowers in the Institutions of Bosnia-Herzegovina doesn't significantly differ from similar laws in the field of witness protection. Its flaw is obvious and can be seen from the title: only state-level institutions are covered. 

The Bosnian initiative is considered comprehensive and is on the list of the best. It is so for many reasons: whistleblowers get a special status at the time of request (not after dismissal or harassment), and monitoring institutions are assigned and mentioned in the law. 

The problem with many regulations on whistleblowing is the absence of penalties for employers and designated officials. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the penalty is defined; as a large sum of money to pay for not investigated cases that serve as the right motivation.


Employer vs Employee

Five colleagues make fists over the desk

Submit a report in good faith, reach a responsible authority in case of ignorance, and confirm the relevance of your submission — these are the main rules for an employee in the public sphere. By the law of BiH, the employer must ensure that:

  • there is an internal channel for whistleblowers who have noticed the act of corruption or suspect it (institution's by-law)
  • the investigation of the report doesn't take longer than 15 days
  • reaction to the report has been made, and the employee doesn't have any objections.

The employer should remember the right of an employee to report externally in case of ignorance or no by-law. The fine for evading the obligation might take up to 10 000€. 

The law doesn't contain any clarifications about anonymity or information security, so most likely it can't be achieved in current conditions.


How to split the obligations

The law becomes unique, when it triples: there is state law for Bosnia and Herzegovina, a code for public and private sectors in Republika Srpska and Brcko with a non-defined position. It was complicated historically, and now it is complicated in daily routine. 

Bosnian and Republika Srpska's positions don't have much in common; it can explain why all the initiatives regarding whistleblowing are tough to implement. The law of the latter is more specified but doesn't have as many successful examples as Bosnian. 


It is really working

Red poster with yellow text on the pole (1)Blowing the whistle in BiH is still not for every employee. Nevertheless, the country has shown the work of the report-reaction-improvement system. Several cases were resolved in favor of the employee since 2015. 

 The most famous Bosnian whistleblower Kathryn Bolkovac, who was a witness of sexual slavery operations and reported it, is an excellent example of getting justice. Even though her story is almost 20 years old, it is still up-to-date as it shows what it takes when there is no working procedure for whistleblowing. 

The law didn't exist in 2001 when it should have. Now Bosnia and Herzegovina has to finish the process it started and work not only on the law for whistleblowers but the reasons for corruption.