EU report urges increased accountability of Bulgarian prosecutor's office

EU report urges increased accountability of Bulgarian prosecutor's office Sofia regional court/All rights reserved.

SOFIA (Bulgaria), December 22 (SeeNews) – To take measures for strengthening the accountability and transparency of the prosecutor’s office should be a top priority for Bulgaria, the European Commission’s Structural Reform Support Service (SRSS) said in a report.

An executive summary of the report was published on the website of Bulgaria's prosecutor's office on Wednesday.

Bulgaria should adopt a package of measures aimed at enhancing the effective performance of the prosecutor’s office, introducing safeguards to prevent inappropriate or arbitrary action and ensuring proper accountability, the SRRS said.

The report was drafted by five prosecutors from four EU member states following seven expert missions to Bulgaria between June and December 2016. It is a result of the request from the Bulgarian authorities for technical assistance in the field of justice reform made in February. The terms of reference were agreed in May.

In terms of accountability, the authors suggest that a senior and independent judicial figure outside the prosecutor’s office should have responsibility for supervising an investigation into allegations of serious criminal wrongdoing by the prosecutor general.

The report calls for the establishment of a parliamentary committee which should hold sessions - open to the public - with the prosecutor general and senior officials of the prosecutor's office at least once in a quarter.

The authors also stress on the need for enhanced regulation and more effective judicial review procedures. The possibility of halting and re-starting cases in the absence of new evidence or circumstances can amount to an abuse of the judicial process, according to the report.

In terms of assessing the prosecutor’s office performance, the report suggests the establishment of an external and independent inspectorate, which will examine the quality of casework decision-making of the prosecutor’s office through analysis of individual cases and thematic review. The inspectorate should include experienced foreign prosecutors, according to the report.

The authors highlight the need for a detailed review of the involvement of the prosecutor’s office in non-criminal matters, as the compatibility of such cases with its main function as a public prosecutor is doubtful. According to the authors, active consideration should be given to the transfer of much, if not all, of this work to other public bodies, especially where its present remit in supervision involves decision-making on issues involving economic and commercial interests.

The report also suggests that preliminary checks by the prosecutor’s office should be abolished, due to the often late collection of evidence.

“We understand that commitment of other authorities will be required to implement all of the advice contained within the report, but that should not prevent the Prosecutor's Office of Republic of Bulgaria from implementing the advice that they can act on immediately,” the authors conclude.

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