Lowering heads the old way again
Prime Minister Boyko Borisov met with a delegation of the Venice Commission a month ago, which was invited by Justice Minister Danail Kirilov. We learned from the official release that they had discussed the latest report regarding the Cooperation and Evaluation Mechanism. It was this report whose outrageously mild tongue about the real situation in the field of justice and public order in Bulgaria shocked us.
On one hand, the tone of the report was the most inadequate so far, but conversely the problem of the Attorney General's inviolability was brought to the forefront though with a certain delay.
So Borisov repeated his repertoire diligently, but the TV footage showed that the meeting is far from the Junker style which includes kisses, hugs and taps. The Prime Minister said that we fulfilled all the indicators and recommendations that the European Commission has set for us as a condition for the monitoring to lapse. He assured the rule of law would continue to be a priority for our country. He also added that the subsequent changes to the Judiciary Act and the Code of Criminal Procedure would be adjacent to the recommendations of the Venice Commission, requested by the Cabinet, on the investigative mechanism of the Attorney General.
Then Borisov held an ostentatious Saturday meeting of the government and announced that he had fulfilled his commitments, namely, the Prosecutor General should be investigated by an independent prosecutor who is not his subordinate. The new post will be compatible with that of the Chief of Inspectorate at the Supreme Prosecutor's Office of Cassation and will be selected by a qualified majority of 2/3 of the members of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) Prosecutorial Board.
"These changes are entirely within the constitutional framework. The exclusivity of the prosecutor's office functions is not affected," Minister Danail Kirilov said solemnly. Boyko Borisov, on the other hand, praised the Venice Commission in advance for "enabling us to stay within our constitution."
It shows that the efforts were aimed at staying in the frame, rather than breaking or changing it. And that allows the Attorney General to be investigated , as long as one of his subordinates puts himself on the hook.
However, it was reported that the job was done and the prime minister recommended "judges and prosecutors to calm down, mind their own business and not deal with party affairs". And that "we will personally send our decision to Ursula (von der Leyen – author’s notes)." That means the "independent" prosecutor will be an employee under the Chief's very nose, they will share neighboring offices on the same floor in the Court of Auditors. And they will both be like Baron Munchausen in pulling the judicial system out of the corruption quagmire.
He/she will, of course, be given a solid salary supplement and some extra bonuses, but he will not preside an institution with separate and specialized investigative functions such as the Romanian anti-corruption agencies. They will not have its own budget, building, magistrates and employees. They will be offered by the people of the Chief in the SJC, which means they will be able to nail them as well. His candidacy will be voted by the National Assembly, which cannot be relied on at all. MPs vote as Borisov tells them. And he tells them what he is told.
It turned out that the Venice Commission lawyers had come up with another trick. In a position adopted the day before the emergency Saturday cabinet meeting, they warned that "all this discussion would be useless if the" independent investigator " is subordinate to the Attorney General and does not respond to the constitutional postulates."
On the basis of the Constitution the commissioners conclude that the prosecutors have a monopoly on all criminal investigations and that each one of them is subject to the chief prosecutor, who controls the legality of their actions. Thus, the status of the independent prosecutor is not applicable within its frames. And the Chief could be held responsible neither criminally nor politically. Let us recall the formal annual statement of the judiciary to the National Assembly and Mr Tsatsarov's refusal to provide explanations to MPs who even do not dare to ask for such. Let us remind of the concise assessment of one of his predecessors, Ivan Tatarchev: "Above me only God."
Meanwhile, the cabinet was slapped by a similar and even more incisive resolution of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe which insisted that "the authorities should immediately draw up new legislative proposals which guarantee the independence and effectiveness of the investigation of the new Prosecutor General or, in case there are compelling constitutional obstacles - to propose necessary amendments to the Constitution.” The resolution made it crystal clear that the ruling parties are obliged to complete the investigation of the ongoing Kolev vs. Bulgaria case so as to reveal the role of former Attorney General Nikolay Filchev in the 2002 murder of his deputy Nikolay Kolev.
The proposed "independent" prosecutor’s independence is evident in the story of former Chief of the Inspectorate of the Supreme Cassation Prosecutor's Office Malena Filipova who turned out to be the first senior magistrate, pursued by Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov after his election.
With the very beginning of his term, Tsatsarov ordered a comprehensive inspection of the Inspectorate and even hinted the structure could be abolished. As a result Tsatsarov submitted a proposal to SJS Filipova to be released from the judicial system, for she ventured to examine the work of judges without having legal basis, instead of confining herself to prosecutors and investigators.
In addition, she dared to use info from the State Security Council and SANS while inspecting the magistrates. According to the verifiers, Filipova did not respect the principle of random distribution of files, some of which were scrutinized, others neglected. Tsatsarov's deputy Borislav Sarafov announced that she was protecting former Minister of Agriculture Miroslav Naydenov because they were close friends and he was taking care of her dog. Later on Malena Filipova stated that she and her family were afraid of being seriously harmed since she had a lot of information and remembered everything in detail.
"There are people who aim to take revenge on me personally and want to silence me forever because I am one of the most informed people in the field of corruption. The idea that I may be held criminally responsible for this active work of mine is creeping up. My life and my freedom are threatened. These people have power and money.
They will pay for some freak accident, as is the case with the check against me," Filipova said before being punished with demotion. Then she fell silent...