Lost Credibility

4. February 2015 0 Comments

Prosecutor Maria Bamieh blowed the corruption whistle – and lost her job with Eulex. Now she wants to sue the European Union.

by Flutura Kusari,  January 2015

Whistleblower Maria Bamieh has revealed she will sue EU mission in Kosovo EULEX for discrimination and victimization after being suspended for “breach of the code of conduct.” She has made these comments during the symposium “Whistleblowing in Europe: The case of EULEX and Maria Bamieh” organized by Human Rights Center and Center for Journalism Studies of Ghent University on December 2014.

Bamieh, a former prosecutor of European Mission on Rule of Law in Kosovo, a mission exercising limited prosecutorial and judicial powers, claims that the EU mission in charge of fighting corruption may be corrupt itself. EULEX is the EU’s largest civil mission launched to strengthen rule of law in Kosovo, costing European taxpayers around 111 million Euro every year since 2008.

During her speech at Ghent University, Bamieh presented a detailed chronology of two years events beginning in May 2012 when she requested internal investigations against her colleagues for possible bribe taking. The peak of the events: On October 24, 2014 EULEX suspended her for allegedly leaking information. Three days after the suspension, Bamieh blow the whistle publicly by accusing EULEX for neglecting her allegation for inside corruption. From now on the former British prosecutor Bamieh herself is accused for leaking information and documents to Kosovo daily newspaper Koha Ditore. But the editor-in-chief of the newspaper Agron Bajrami says she was not the source.

“I went public because they not only discriminated and intimidated me after I filed requests for internal investigations, but they also humiliated me publicly by dismissing me from the office with security guards. What would the local people think of me? That Maria Bamieh did something wrong,” said Bamieh. “Now you tell what is worse: leaking documents to suspects or speaking about wrongdoings in the press. I spoke about wrongdoings in the press and I was suspended, someone was leaking but there is no investigation about that,” continued Bamieh.

The members of the European Parliament Richard Howit (Labour Party, United Kingdom) and Ulrike Lunacek (Green Party, Austria) have publicly called for thorough investigations of the allegations that EULEX officials took bribes to shut down cases. Currently, there are at least two investigations in relation to this case, one being against Bamieh for leaking information and a second one missioned by the “High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy” Federica Mogherini. Mogherini has appointed Jean Paul Jacque as an independent expert to review the EULEX mandate implementation with a focus on the handling of the corruption allegations. Bamieh is concerned of the work of Jean Paul Jacque. “He will investigate how EULEX handles corruption, but what about corruption itself?”

On 14 November 2014, the European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly, closed her own-initiative inquiry to assess EULEX “given that the criminal pre-trial investigation by the joint judicial team, as well as the review carried out by the external expert appointed by the EU High Representative, are still on-going.” According to the decision to close the inquiry, the Ombudsman noted that EULEX did not follow its standard procedure for investigating corruption allegations.

Media Law Professor Dirk Voorhoof (Ghent University) explains that the European Court of Human Rights has established six criteria to help to determine the necessity of an interference with a whistleblower’s freedom of expression, namely:

  1. public interest involved in the disclosed information,
  2. authenticity of the information disclosed,
  3. the damage, if any, suffered by the authority or the employer as a result of the disclosure in question,
  4. the motive behind the actions of the reporting employee,
  5. whether, the information was made public as a last resort, following disclosure to a superior or other competent body and
  6. severity of the sanction imposed.

These criteria would be assessed if the case reaches ECtHR. Does EULEX meet these standards?

Until recently, EULEX enjoyed an almost unquestionable reputation amongst Kosovar citizens in contrast to its predecessor United Nation Interim Mission in Kosovo which, in several occasions, was found to be in violation of human rights. Both missions in Kosovo have been aiming at building the state of Kosovo based on the best European practices. Kosovar authorities were “lectured” constantly by EU representatives how to base their laws, judgments and other public policies on international instruments such as the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, European Convention on Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Council of Europe Recommendations and ECtHR jurisprudence. Therefore the case of Maria Bamieh represents a sensitive test whether this mission will protect human rights, in this case freedom of expression, in line with the own standards that EU officials have been preaching to Kosovars since the country’s independence in 2008.

Read more about this case:

The Guardian

EU’s biggest foreign mission in turmoil over corruption row

Maria Bamieh: ‘I learned to adapt and survive’

EU accused over its Kosovo mission: ‘Corruption has grown exponentially’

The EU Observer

EU mission in Kosovo rocked by corruption allegations

Ombudsman to investigate EU mission in Kosovo

British MEP wants Olaf probe into EU mission in Kosovo

The Independent

Maria Bamieh: The British lawyer claiming to expose corruption at heart of EU mission to Kosovo

Daily Mail

British fraud hunter exposes EU staff on the take… in her own anti-corruption unit

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