Reform of committal proceedings in Spain and how this relates to the necessary independence of the Prosecutor General’s Office

Reform of committal proceedings in Spain and how this relates to the necessary independence of the Prosecutor General’s Office

On 24 November 2020, Spanish Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Adrián Vázquez Lázara of the Renew Europe Group posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:

“The Spanish Government has embarked upon a reform of the legal system to be implemented during 2021, under which committal proceedings will cease to be the responsibility of examining magistrates and become instead that of the Prosecutor General’s Office, with the latter acting under the supervision of a judge responsible for ensuring procedural safeguards.

However, and as the Commission’s 2020 Rule of Law Report on Spain made clear, ‘[T]he relation between the Prosecutor General and the executive is subject to discussion’, because the former is chosen on the basis of a proposal by the latter and the Prosecutor General’s term in office ends at the same time as that of the executive. Furthermore, the current Prosecutor General, Dolores Delgado, was Justice Minister under the very executive that appointed her to her current post in February 2020.

Would the Commission recommend that before placing committal proceedings in the hands of the Prosecutor General’s Office in Spain, the process of appointing the Prosecutor General be changed so he/she has greater independence and neutrality, and thereby ensure that committal proceedings in the future both are, and are seen to be, impartial, objective and free from undue influence of all kinds, and especially political influence?”

On 3 February 2021, Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “The Commission has published on 30 September 2020 the first annual Rule of Law Report, which is at the centre of the new European Rule of Law Mechanism. The 2020 Rule of Law Report Country Chapter for Spain takes note of the changes to the investigative phase being considered in the context of the reform of the Code of Criminal Procedure, to which the Honourable Member refers. The Commission will continue to follow the developments in this regard.

The Commission recalls that the organisation of national prosecution services varies throughout the EU and that there is no uniform model for all Member States.”

Source: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/E-9-2020-006402_EN.html

Photo Credit : https://pixabay.com/illustrations/justice-scales-fairness-impartial-683942/

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