Bulgaria Constitutional Court strikes down special prosecutor position

Bulgaria’s Constitutional Court said on May 11 that it ruled amendments to the country’s Penal Procedure Code, which envision the appointment of a special prosecutor with the authority to investigate the top ranks of the prosecutor’s office, to be unconstitutional.

The bill was passed by Parliament in January and was meant to address the issue that, in Bulgaria’s legal system, the country’s prosecutor-general can shut down any investigation against themselves by using their oversight powers granted by law.

President Roumen Radev, who vetoed the bill only to have the veto overturned by Parliament, lodged the formal complaint with the Constitutional Court, arguing that the new position would breach several key constitutional principles.

In its ruling, the Constitutional Court said that the amendments failed to achieve their stated goals of ensuring the possibility of an independent investigation of the prosecutor-general.

The special prosecutor was not given their own “investigative apparatus” to ensure independent investigation. Instead they could delegate such activities to investigators in the the special prosecutor’s office, which are ultimately subordinate to the prosecutor-general.

The new position was “a prosecutor in name only”, because the rules for the appointment of the special prosecutor and the duties of the position was different from those of regular prosecutors, the court said.

Unlike the prosecutor-general, whose place in the legal hierarchy was defined in the constitution, that was not the case with the special prosecutor, who was effectively placed outside that hierarchy, the court said, which was “constitutionally unacceptable.”

Furthermore, not unlike the prosecutor-general position in the current legal framework, the special prosecutor was not subject to any checks themselves, which raised “further concerns about accomplishing the goals declared by the legislator,” the court ruling said.

The ruling was passed with 11 judges in favour, with Filip Dimitrov signing a dissenting opinion.

(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)

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