Bulgaria: Parliament finally shut down the Specialized Prosecution

Politics | April 15, 2022, Friday // 09:22
Bulgaria: Bulgaria: Parliament finally shut down the Specialized Prosecution

Parliament adopted at second reading amendments to the Judiciary Act, which finally closed the specialized courts and the prosecutor's office.

The debate lasts all day yesterday,

GERB did everything possible to delay the debates with many repeated statements. The main argument was the same - that the closure of specialized justice will stop cases against oligarchs. “We Continue the Change,” asked which cases GERB has in mind and asked to indicate them so that the whole society could follow the development of them after the closure. As expected, the former rulers did not say anything specific but said there would be problems because the status of magistrates would be unsettled.

“The decision to shut it down has already been taken,” Krum Zarkov (BSP) said.

According to him, the specialized justice was “throwing dust in the eyes” of people.

“There is a court that the majority (of GERB) liked more than the others. A black minibus with the inscription ‘Specialized Prosecutor's Office’ took people away because they had measures that another court would not accept,” Zarkov added.

Andrey Mihailov (“There Is Such a People”) said that justice in Bulgaria will not disappear. He pointed out that even specialized prosecutors have acknowledged that there are deficits in their work in the fight against corruption.

Atanas Slavov (“Democratic Bulgaria”) reminded that through the specialized justice, permits for listening devices were issued in order to track citizens protesting against the GERB government.

“You will have to explain to your constituents whose oligarchic circles you support. We will demand political responsibility from you,” said Ana Alexandrova (GERB).

Dani Kanazireva (GERB) clarified that these are cases worth BGN 3 billion. However, which ones were not specified.

Zarkov pointed out that an “oligarch” is someone who has become rich because he is close to power.

“Which government was he close to?” He asked, pointing out that it was GERB that was in power during the operation of the specialized justice.

He added:

“You have created not a specialized but a parallel judiciary. The oligarchs are the ones who took advantage of the power while you were exercising it. And none of them has been convicted by the specialized court.”

Yavor Bojankov (BSP) said that GERB was behaving “as if they were closing their personal company, not the specialized court”.

“It will be like the BSP's paper ballots,” Kanazireva replied, explaining that one day the same majority would vote for the return of specialized justice.

Slavov took the floor again, saying specialized justice was “a political tribunal for those uncomfortable with power”.

“The inquisitional beginning has been restored. We want a return to the general system of courts. There has been a sinking not of cases, but of people who have been in custody for months without charge. They are probably not exemplary citizens, but justice is to prevent a person who has not violated a specific law, to be inquisited. It is not the protection of oligarchs (the closure of specialized justice) but the protection of the rights of all of us,” Slavov said.

Alexander Nenkov (GERB) pointed out that the Ministry of Interior is now a “baseball bat” and by the logic of the government and it should be shut down.

The texts abolishing the career bonuses of the Chief Inspector and the inspectors in the Inspectorate at the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) were voted on.

Upon expiration of the term of office or upon its early termination, the Chief Inspector and the inspectors who have submitted an application to the respective SJC panel shall be reinstated to the position of judge, prosecutor, or pre-election judge within 14 days investigator. Until now, they could be reinstated by one degree higher than before the election.

A similar change was adopted with regard to the members of the SJC.

According to the texts, after the closure of the Specialized Criminal Court, the first-instance criminal cases, in which the judicial investigation was launched, became under the jurisdiction of the Sofia City Court and their consideration continued by the court panel that held the hearing.

Judges from the court panels, who have not been reassigned to the Sofia City Court, are seconded to participate in the examination of cases until the end of the proceedings.

The judges of the court panel, who considered the first instance criminal cases in which a sentence was handed down when they were not reassigned to the Sofia City Court, are seconded to announce the reasons for the sentence.

It is envisaged that the first instance criminal cases before the Specialized Criminal Court, in which the judicial investigation has not been initiated until the amendments enter into force, will be sent to the relevant courts within 7 days of the entry into force of this law.

The pre-trial proceedings and files in the Specialized Prosecutor's Office that have not been completed until the entry into force of the changes shall be sent to the respective prosecutor's offices within their competence within seven days from the entry into force of the law.

A quota principle is also created for the reappointment of judges, prosecutors and investigators from the specialized courts and prosecutor's offices.

Judges and prosecutors from the specialized justice will be reappointed under the conditions and by the order of art. 194, para. 1. Decisions on reassignment shall be subject to prior enforcement.

Within 14 days of the promulgation of the amendments, the magistrates may submit an application to the Judicial or Prosecutorial College of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), in which they state their desire to be reinstated to the position they held before their appointment in the specialized court or prosecutor's office.

Within 30 days from the expiration of the previous term, the panel of judges of the SJC shall adopt a decision to open positions of judges in courts corresponding to those closed in the Specialized Criminal Court and the Appellate Specialized Criminal Court. Up to one-quarter of the judges of the closed Specialized Criminal Court and up to one-third of the judges of the closed Specialized Criminal Court of Appeal shall be reappointed in one court. The degree of workload of the respective court or department will also be taken into account during the reassignment.

Also within 30 days, the Prosecutorial Board of the SJC adopts a decision to open positions of prosecutors in prosecutor's offices, corresponding to those closed in the Specialized Prosecutor's Office and the Appellate Specialized Prosecutor's Office. Up to one-third of the prosecutors from the closed Specialized Prosecutor's Office, respectively from the closed Appellate Specialized Prosecutor's Office, are reappointed in one prosecutor's office.

Up to one-third of the investigators from the closed investigation department of the Specialized Prosecutor's Office are reassigned to one investigation department.

Kanazireva rebuked the government for simply replacing the magistrates in landmark cases. She criticized the introduced quota principle for reappointment and said it was unconstitutional. He said the days of “forced resettlement” were long gone.

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