Bulgaria’s President Vetoed Latest Amendments to Criminal Procedure Code over Specialized Prosecutor
President Rumen Radev vetoed the Law supplementing the Criminal Procedure Code, which was adopted by the National Assembly on January 29, 2021. The Head of State returns the law in its entirety for further discussion by lawmakers.
According to Rumen Radev, the law adopted at the end of January does not offer a fair and sustainable solution to the lack of effective control over an incumbent prosecutor general or his deputy.
The creation of a new position of "prosecutor entitled to probe into the Prosecutor General or his deputy" violates a number of basic constitutional principles, including the independence of the court, the independence of prosecutors within the judiciary and equality of citizens before the law.
In his rationale, the President points out that the problem related to the lack of an effective investigation against a prosecutor general or his deputy, as well as against persons on top government positions in general, presents a fundamental challenge to the supremacy of law in Bulgaria.
In the last year and a half, this is a third in a row legislative initiative of the ruling majority, which is trying to find a solution to the problem.
Wavering between different institutional options clearly shows that the problem is complicated, the concept of its solution has not yet been clarified and the debates must continue in an expert circle.
Objections to the amendments that the President has vetoed have already come, with more or less the same reasoning, from the Venice Commission and the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) Plenum. The Council of Europe has told Bulgaria that, while the revisions were a positive step, they appeared insufficient to fulfil the requirements for independence of an investigation concerning the prosecutor general. They made it clear that the proposed reform could only be seen as a temporary mechanism and set out very specific further steps that needed to be made.
They also said that the proposed procedure for electing the special prosecutor does not seem to ensure sufficient independence, suggested that the duration of the term of the special prosecutor be reduced from five to a maximum of three years, and called for allowing an investigation mechanism against the prosecutor general under which a judge / list of judges can also serve as ad hoc prosecutor(s).
Critics argue that the special prosecutor by no way can be independent as he or she is still a prosecutor who is elected by the majority at the SJC, which is under the enormous influence of the prosecutor general, and can be removed by the SJC for any misconduct, including such that has not been proved. /BGNES, BTA
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