Letter of Support to Prosecutors of the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office in Belgrade and an Appeal for a Proactive Response by the State Council of Prosecutors
Regarding the public statements of the deputy public prosecutors of the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office in Belgrade, Bojana Savović and Jasmina Paunović, the National Convention on EU expresses its full support to the prosecutors. The National Convention extends support to all other prosecutors who found themselves in a similar situation. Apparently, these are not the single cases of repositioning within the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office since the appointment of Nenad Stefanović as the Higher Public Prosecutor. Such repositions are supposed to be carried out in accordance to an annual schedule. Having in mind publicly available information, these extraordinary repositions show the violation of the procedure prescribed by the Rulebook on Administration within Public Prosecutor’s Offices.
Savovic and Paunovic addressed the public regarding such unwanted, extraordinary, and insufficiently explained repositions. Thirty-seven deputy prosecutors of the First Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office in Belgrade sent a petition to the State Prosecutors Council to support the two prosecutors. The petition was backed by six deputies from the Special Department for War Crimes, and seventeen deputy prosecutors of the Third Public Prosecutor’s Office in Belgrade as well. Professional associations, civil society organizations, and lawyers provided support as well. Obviously, this is not an individual and random case of repositioning, but a continuous practice, and most often happens to prosecutors who work on important cases with elements of corruption.
On February 27, 2023, the Commissioner for Independence of the State Prosecutors Council stated that it is not possible to identify undue influence in an undoubtful and reliable way when it comes to the proceedings of the Higher Public Prosecutor and the First Deputy Higher Public Prosecutor in Belgrade. Further, it said that the assessment of whether it is an undue influence or an issue of an organizational nature, requires additional assessments to collect data and relevant evidence.
The National Convention invites the Commissioner and the State Council of Prosecutors to act proactively and provide the conditions for the deputy public prosecutors to testify and investigate all elements of undue influence as soon as possible. The institutions must react timely in order to avoid further politicization. In line with the recent adoption of the new set of judicial laws, we remind you that the aim was to free the judiciary and the prosecution from the undue influence of other branches of government. It is of utmost importance to enable an environment for independence and autonomy in the work of the representatives of the judiciary. That is why it is necessary to protect these two prosecutors as well as all other prosecutors, specifically those who work on sensitive cases and cases with corrupt elements, and to protect them also from undue influence coming from those hierarchically superior to them.
In Belgrade, March 2nd, 2023
National Convention on the EU on the initiative of the Working group for Chapter 23