Association of Prosecutors Alerts EU Institutions: Judiciary Independence in Bulgaria at Risk

Politics » DOMESTIC | May 5, 2021, Wednesday // 14:24
Bulgaria: Association of Prosecutors Alerts EU Institutions: Judiciary Independence in Bulgaria at Risk

The Association of Prosecutors in Bulgaria (APB) has alerted the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Venice Commission, the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) and the ambassadors of EU countries, the US and the UK in Bulgaria about "an unacceptable attempt to interfere with the independence of the judiciary" in connection with bills tabled by the 45th National Assembly, directly related to the rule of law. This transpires from a statement of the Association on Wednesday.

The amendments in question, moved by Democratic Bulgaria, were approved on first reading by the Parliamentary Legal Affairs
Committee on April 28. There Is Such a People and Stand Up! Mafiosi Out! and BSP for Bulgaria backed the bills amending and
supplementing the Judicial System Act and the Criminal Procedure Code, whereas GERB-UDF abstained. Magistrates and staff of the Specialized Prosecution Office and the Appellate Specialized Prosecution Office staged a 15-minute silent protest against the
 proposed legislative revisions in Sofia on April 29. Prosecutor  General Ivan Geshev and Supreme Judicial Council members joined them. Silent protests were also held in front of courthouses in other towns.

According to the Association, the amendments "undermine the rule of law and the separation of powers in the country", have not
been subjected to public discussion in line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission and are "in essence an
unacceptable attempt to interfere with the judiciary, which is independent under the Constitution".

The Association says that the constitutional amendments concern changing the elements of the form of State governance, which
falls within the competence of a Grand National Assembly and not an ordinary parliament.

Under provisions related to the functioning of the prosecution service, the Prosecutor General will be appointed and dismissed
by the President on a proposal of the National Assembly. Their adoption will turn the prosecution service into a political
factor, entirely dependent on the majority in Parliament, APB warn.

On Tuesday, Bulgaria's Chamber of Investigators too called the legislative and constitutional amendments "an unacceptable
attempt to interfere with the judiciary." Its position has been sent to the European Commission, the European Parliament, the
Venice Commission, GRECO and the ambassadors of EU countries, the US and the UK.

The Chamber calls the constitutional amendments "political interference in the judiciary and in particular the work of the
prosecution service". Under the said amendments, the justice minister will be able to make proposals for the appointment,
promotion, demotion, transfer and dismissal of prosecutors and investigators, which also violates the principle of separation
of powers.

The Chamber also argues against changes which will allow judges, prosecutors and investigators to be members of political
parties and coalitions, the moratorium on the appointment of senior public officials including administrative heads in the
judiciary, and the closure of the specialized courts and
specialized prosecution offices.  BTA


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