Bulgaria: Committee of Ministers examines measures to strengthen criminal investigations

SZ and Kolevi v. Bulgaria

At its Human Rights meeting on 9 and 11 March, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe examined the execution of the SZ and Kolevi group of cases against Bulgaria. These cases mainly concern the systemic problem of the ineffectiveness of investigations into murders and ill-treatment and the lack of guarantees for the independence of criminal investigations concerning the Attorney General.

The Committee welcomed the recent significant efforts of the Bulgarian authorities with regard to the investigations into a public prosecutor and his deputies to propose legislative amendments. He noted that the recent legislative reform introducing a special prosecutor to investigate a chief prosecutor (“special prosecutor”) includes several positive provisions and hailed as an important step the introduction of a judicial review of a prosecutor’s refusal. special to initiate an investigation. .

He noted, however, that this new framework reveals several shortcomings and shortcomings and that, given the current composition of the Supreme Judicial Council (CJS), it might not be sufficient to exclude the influence of the Attorney General on the appointment. and the responsibility of a special prosecutor. He noted in particular that the 11 prosecutor members of the CSM could veto such decisions, impose candidates accepted by a chief prosecutor or become the main element of a majority.

The Committee therefore urged the authorities to adopt laws or, in the event of insurmountable constitutional obstacles being established, constitutional amendments, to fully respond to the interim resolution and to provide their assessment of whether a shorter term for the first-appointed special prosecutor is warranted to allow the required changes to come into effect without undue delay.

The Committee underlined, in this context, the importance of reducing any potential influence by a chief prosecutor of the CSJ and to consider appropriate measures to this effect before the election of a new CSJ in 2022. He encouraged the authorities to assess whether the procedural or institutional rules need to be changed, including in this regard. which concerns the extension of judicial control, to reduce to a certain extent the influence of a public prosecutor within the judiciary or the prosecutor’s office.

The Committee also invited the authorities to introduce the rules relating to the suspension of the function of an Attorney General under the Judicial System Act and the involvement of an appropriate number of sufficiently independent investigators in the investigations against him. He invited them to introduce rules on the independent replacement of a special prosecutor beyond the situations of one-off urgent investigative acts or to consider a mechanism based on a list of judges competent to act as ad hoc prosecutors.

Furthermore, with regard to the effectiveness of investigations in general, the Committee once again insisted on the introduction of a judicial review of refusals by the prosecution to open an investigation, alongside measures to avoid the considerable increase in the workload of courts and prosecutors. It also requested the assessment of the possibility of taking other measures to strengthen the efficiency of criminal investigations.

The committee decided to re-examine these cases at tit no later than December 2021.

New item in Bulgarian (unofficial translation)

Latest notes and decisions of the Committee of Ministers concerning these cases (unofficial translation into Bulgarian)

Memorandum (unofficial translation into Bulgarian)

Mark M. Gagnon