International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Lawyers: Amendments make political influence easier

January 15, 2022
The Serbian electorate turned out on Sunday for a referendum on amendments to the constitution which the ruling coalition claims will bring more independence to the judiciary while lawyers warned that it will make it easier to exert political influence on judges and prosecutors.
If the amendments are adopted the two top bodies in the country’s judiciary will include members appointed by parliament. Those two bodies – the High Judiciary Council and State Prosecutors’ Council – appoint judges and prosecutors.
Belgrade lawyer Milan Kostic told N1 that the proposed changes to the constitution would make judges and prosecutors more independent but warned that political influence can still be exerted because parliament would elect members of the two top judiciary bodies. Specifically, the High Judiciary Council will have 11 members six of who are selected by judges, another four “prominent lawyers” elected by parliament and a Council president. The State Prosecutors’ Council will also have 11 members five of who are public prosecutors, four “prominent lawyers” elected by parliament, a Supreme Public Prosecutor and the Justice Minister.
One of the problems mentioned by critics of the amendments is the introduction of so-called prominent lawyers. They are defined as lawyers with more than 10 years experience who are appointed by parliament but there is no mention of their possible political affiliations.
The amendments include name changes for prosecutors and deputy prosecutors who would carry the title of Chief Public Prosecutor and Public Prosecutor as well as far-reaching changes such as the fact that judges would no longer be elected for an initial three year term before getting a job for life but would have life-long posts immediately and the fact that the Supreme Court of Cassation would become the Supreme Court.
Another Belgrade lawyer familiar with Serbia’s European integration process said that the proposed amendments only partly meet the recommendations of the Venice Commission which would prefer to see more profound and far-reaching changes. The lawyer, who insisted on anonymity said that failure to adopt the amendments would not slow down the European integration process adding that there are a lot of other things that are obstructing the process.
The lawyer agreed that the amendments would make it easier for the ruling coalition to appoint its judges and prosecutors. He said that judges seem to be more of a problem for the ruling coalition because many of them are “just doing their job” in line with the law.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/lawyers-amendments-make-political-influence-easier/

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