site.btaCouncil of Europe Committee of Ministers Welcomes "Landmark Reform" in Bulgaria
The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CMCE) on Thursday welcomed the adoption of what it described as "important and long-awaited reforms" in Bulgaria. According to a news item published on the Council of Europe website, these reforms include, inter alia, " a mechanism for the independent investigation into acts committed by the Chief Prosecutor, and a judicial review of refusals to open investigation into serious criminal offences and some other criminal offences concerning violations of the ECHR and corruption, which remedy will be available to both victims and persons who notified a crime".
The CMCE "also welcomed information on the adoption of legislative amendments concerning victim protection, also aimed at enhancing the effectiveness of investigations of rape and sexual assault".
"The Committee moreover noted with interest the authorities' request for technical assistance from the Council of Europe to further strengthen guarantees regarding the bringing of charges, the reduction of formalism at the trial stage, and the improvement of practices concerning the content, examination and amendment of indictments. It moreover invited the authorities to pursue their work on adopting measures in areas where amendments were not adopted by Parliament concerning, inter alia, the separation of proceedings at the trial stage or the use of the acceleratory remedy before pre-trial charges."
The CMCE "invited the authorities to further assess and analyse the measures adopted, including to analyse possible reinforcement through legislative or constitutional reforms. It also noted that Parliament still needs to elect new Supreme Judicial Council ("SJC") members and insisted on the need to carry out this election in a way effectively reducing the chief prosecutor's influence on the new SJC."
These cases will be re-examined by the CMCE in September 2023.
The news item covers a CMCE Human Rights meeting of June 5-7, which "examined the S.Z. and Kolevi group of cases against Bulgaria which concerns mainly the systemic problem of ineffective criminal investigations, including the lack of independence of criminal investigations concerning the chief prosecutor. The meeting was attended by the Deputy Minister of Justice of Bulgaria, signalling Bulgaria's commitment to fully complying with the judgments of the European Court."