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Constitutional amendments will not reduce political influence on the judiciary

Transparency Serbia (chapter of Transparency International) indicates that the third published draft of constitutional changes in the field of justice also does not contain explanation nor a review of the comments submitted during public debate.

Citizens were thus deprived of information about why the Ministry of Justice, among several possibilities, defined the minimum standards set by the Venice Commission for several provisions, why certain solutions deviate from the Action Plan for Chapter 23, and for that reason rejected arguments from numerous associations and experts made during the previous public hearing

Since the complex process of constitutional changes has been initiated to reduce the political influence on judges and prosecutors, as a goal set by the national and European strategic acts of 2013 and 2016, the current proposal, according to which only 50% of the members of the future judge and 40% members of the new prosecutorial council are elected by judges and prosecutors themselves, and the other deputies cannot be considered good.

It is true that the situation in which judges and prosecutors primarily decide on their colleagues carries with them risks, but these risks should be removed by legal norms that would increase the publicity of the work of the judicial councils and reduce the scope for their discretionary decision-making, and not by indirect political control, by the groups of „prominent lawyers“that will be elected by a parliamentary majority.

Regarding political influence on the work of the judiciary, program director TS Nemanja Nenadic stated the following:

“If there was a will to reduce political influence on the work of VSS and DVT, this could have been done independently of the constitutional changes. Since the government and the Assembly in 2013 concluded that it was not appropriate for the Justice Minister and the President of the Assembly’s Judicial Council to be members of the judicial bodies, those politicians could immediately stop participating in the election and dismissal of judges and prosecutors. Also, there is still a vast space to reduce inappropriate impacts through a change in practice, for the beginning by informing the public about what has been done and what should be done in prosecution of perpetrators by the competent public prosecutor rather than political officials”.  

We remind that the amendments to the Constitution in the field of judiciary are only one of the issues where the highest legal act needs to be changed. In addition, in order to more effectively combat corruption, amendments to the Constitution are also needed in order to set stronger guarantees for the public work of state bodies, especially in connection with the conclusion of the contract, in order to improve the position of independent state bodies, so it would be appropriate that constitutional reform covers those areas.