UN expert urges Bulgaria to include prosecution service in judicial reform

UN expert urges Bulgaria to include prosecution service in judicial reform

Bulgaria should include its prosecution service in the reform of its judiciary to streamline the administration of justice, Gabriela Knaul, the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, said on May 16 2011 at the end of a six-day visit to the 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 organised crime and corruption," Knaul said.Knaul said that 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 organised 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," Knaul said, quoted by the UN News Service."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 emphasised 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."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," she said. (Source: The Sofia Echo)

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