Politics 30/09/2021

New warning from Council of Europe over politicisation of judiciary: "It is a critical issue"

It considers election of members should not be in the hands of parties but in the hands of the judiciary

2 min
The president of the CGPJ, Carlos Lesmes, during a plenary session of the body in 2020

ParisThe Council of Europe has once again launched harsh criticism against Spain over its system to elect the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) and warns of its "politicisation" in the eyes of public opinion. "It is a critical issue," warns the latest report published on Thursday by European anti-corruption body GRECO, which assesses whether States comply with adequate anti-corruption measures in both the political and judicial field

For years, GRECO has been calling on Spain to change the system for electing the governing body of the judiciary to protect its independence from political power, but the government of Pedro Sánchez argues that the current system "requires a broad parliamentary consensus". All in all, the Council of Europe regrets that the State has ignored its recommendation. "Today the situation is exactly the same," the anti-corruption body complains. "There has been no breakthrough," it laments. The report, however, stresses that Spain has made progress and has complied with other recommendations related to preventing corruption among parliamentarians.

The international body, formed by 47 states, does not go into assessing the delays to the renewal of the CGPJ after almost three years without an agreement, but insists that the election of its members should not be in the hands of the Spanish Parliament and Senate but of the judiciary, according to European standards. It is one of the arguments used by Pablo Casado's party as an excuse to continue blocking its renewal. The report strongly recommends that "political authorities, such as Parliament or the executive branch, do not participate in any stage of the selection process". Although its leaders avoid saying it out loud, the Socialists fear that if the election falls to the magistrates, the CGPJ will end up being dominated by conservative, who are a majority within the judiciary.

The new report is published a year after the president of GRECO, Marin Mrcela, wrote to the Ministry of Justice to demand that it backtrack on the legislative initiative of the Spanish government to lower the majority needed to renew the members of the CGPJ, a proposal that Sánchez finally decided to shelve. According to the Council of Europe, at least half of the judges on the CGPJ ought to be chosen by other judges.

Against revolving doors in the Prosecutor's Office

The Council of Europe also asks Spain to guarantee the independence of the Public Prosecutor's Office and expresses its doubts about the fact that the Ministry of Justice is responsible for appointing the heads of different prosecutors, such as the one specialising in the fight against corruption or organised crime. In the section in which it talks about the independence of the prosecutor's office, it also asks the Spanish government to take into account its 2019 report's recommendation to avoid revolving doors in politics. GRECO does not make any explicit reference to any particular case, but the warning comes in the first report after the appointment of ex-minister of Justice Dolores Delgado as attorney general of the State .

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