The changes in the NPK (National Program for Judicial Reforms) regarding the Chief Prosecutor are an important first step forward.
The published today, June 2, 2023, amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code are an important step towards the final implementation of the Kollevi v. Bulgaria case, as well as the decisions on other cases of the European Court of Human Rights, numerous recommendations of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, and the Venice Commission.
These current changes are the result of the intensified work of the Ministry of Justice team over the past year, as well as the longstanding contribution and advocacy of several non-governmental organizations working for judicial system reforms.
The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee believes that among the adopted texts, some essential proposals are missing, which would have ensured limiting the actual power of the Chief Prosecutor over the Supreme Judicial Council. A mechanism was not approved to allow victims of crimes to request the acceleration of pre-trial proceedings in cases of significant delay. Guarantees against unwarranted prolongation of pre-trial proceedings are also lacking.
The recommendations of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission to limit the appointment of prosecutors and investigators as members of the Supreme Judicial Council by the parliament (but not judges) have not been implemented. It was also not foreseen that the majority for the dismissal of the Presidents of the Supreme Court of Cassation and the Supreme Administrative Court should be from the Judicial College elected by judges.
Other changes are also necessary to ensure real independence of the judiciary and the comprehensive implementation of the Kollevi v. Bulgaria case – for these, however, a constitutional amendment is required. Therefore, we urge the parties represented in the parliament to continue their work on reforming the judiciary without delay or interruption, revising the constitutional powers of the Chief Prosecutor; establishing an independent figure, not part of the prosecution system, to investigate possible crimes committed by the Chief Prosecutor; increasing judicial self-governance in the Supreme Judicial Council and enhancing public oversight over the Prosecutor's College of the Council.