The United Nations independent expert on the independence of judges and lawyers today urged Bulgaria to include its prosecution service in the reform of its judiciary to streamline the administration of justice in the European country.
“Joint governance of the courts and the prosecution service appears to hamper a well-functioning system of accountability, and therefore limits effective prosecution of those involved in organized crime and corruption,” said Gabriela Knaul, the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, at the end of her six-day mission to Bulgaria.
She said judges, court assessors, prosecutors and investigating magistrates are essential to the success of the current legal reform process to improve Bulgaria’s capacity to combat corruption and organized crime, and to ensure efficiency, independence and accountability of the judiciary.
“Several efforts undertaken by the Government show Bulgaria’s commitment to strengthen democracy and the rule of law,” said Ms. Knaul. “However, misconceptions on the judiciary may overshadow efforts to achieve the major goals of the reform.”
“In a democratic and free society, no institution should be used as a scapegoat to hide structural problems that require urgent action.”
She stressed that judges and prosecutors should not be seen as being “one and the same” and that access to justice should be guaranteed for Bulgarians.
“Legal aid should be effectively ensured to all those who need it to resort to courts; law enforcement officials, lawyers, prosecutors, court administrators, judges and the Supreme Judicial Council should be made accountable for their actions; the courts should be adequately resourced so that they are able to function properly and uphold the principles of independence, impartiality, integrity, propriety, equality, competence and diligence.”
Ms. Knaul also urged the Bulgarian media to uphold its social responsibility to facilitate tolerance, dialogue and understanding among the three branches of Government – the executive, legislature and judiciary.
“Public opinion plays a key role in governance affairs in Bulgaria and should contribute to building public trust in the administration of justice and all Government institutions in Bulgaria.”