Government Creates New Prosecution Office to Investigate a Chief Prosecutor
104 - POLITICS – JUDICIARY – CHIEF PROSECUTOR – INVESTIGATION
Government Creates New Prosecution Office to Investigate Chief Prosecutor
Sofia, December 7 (BTA) – At an extraordinary meeting on Saturday morning, the government adopted changes in two laws to create a new prosecutorial office which will have powers to conduct independent investigation of Bulgaria’s chief prosecutor. The new legislation is adopted less than a day after the Council of Europe Venice Commission said that legislation previously proposed by the Bulgarian government was unsatisfactory and a different approach was needed to set in place a mechanism for independent and effective investigation of the Prosecutor General.
The new prosecutor will head the Inspectorate of the Supreme Cassation Prosecution Office and that will be enacted by revisions to the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Judicial System Act, which have yet to be approved by Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee and voted by the entire legislature.
This “absolutely independent” prosecutor, to use the Prime Minister’s words, will be elected by the prosecutors’ college of the Supreme Judicial Council by a majority of two-thirds for a term of seven years. He or she will not report to the Prosecutor General, explained Justice Minister Danail Kirilov. He will also have powers to investigate the Prosecutor General’s deputies.
The bill that Bulgaria proposes follows a European Court of Human Rights decision which established, in the Kolevs vs. Bulgaria case of 2010, that there are no effective mechanisms in Bulgaria to investigate the top prosecutor even when he is suspected of a serious offence. The initial government proposal was submitted in June 2019 but the Venice Commission said Friday that it “not only fails to resolve the current shortcomings relating to the independence and effectiveness of investigation concerning a Chief Prosecutor, but could make such an investigation more difficult to initiate.”
It also criticized a proposal to put the Prosecutor General in the same package with the Presidents of the Supreme Court of Cassation and the Supreme Administrative Court and pointed out that the Kolevs judgment did not require changes of the rules on investigation concerning the two top judges. What is more, the draft bill of June 2019 contains provisions for the automatic suspension of these two most senior judges “which could threaten their independence”. Therefore it urged the Bulgarian authorities to reconsider that proposal.
Indeed, the changes adopted on Saturday drop the initial proposal by the Justice Minister for removal of the Presidents of the Supreme Court of Cassation and the Supreme Administrative Court, by a majority of two-thirds of the Supreme Judicial Council, if they are suspected of a crime.
Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said during his government’s meeting that the decision will be sent to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and that it “closes the circle of commitments Bulgaria has made to the EC President”. LN/Source: Sofia