Should the fact that the former Special Prosecutors had dozen of subjects lying in their desks be forgotten?

The activities and results of the Chief Special Prosecutor Milivoje Katnić and his team seem encouraging so far. Although I would gladly avoid saying ‘’but’’, it is not the easiest thing to do. The previously disappointing court procedures, particularly those related to the area of organised crime have taught us not to rejoice too soon. It is not over until everything is over: and that is the definite conviction at the highest court instance where illegally obtained property is taken away.

The special prosecution of 8 prosecutors (and two additional) has formed 384 subjects and launched 7 investigations in the first five months. The most of the material they are building their subjects on had already been there, in the former Department for anti-corruption and organized crime collecting dust.

However, the beginning looks promising. The Special Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) of 8 prosecutors (and two additional) has formed 384 subjects and started 7 investigations. However, what does all that say?

The most of the material the subjects are being built on has already been there, in the former Department for anti-corruption and organized crime collecting dust. No matter how willing they are to do their demanding part, they couldn’t have achieved this much by themselves in an incomplete institutional framework without forming a Special Police Unit . And if they did, another question arises with regards to how did they achieve more in just a few months than their colleagues did in several years?

At the moment when the Special prosecutors took over the department, only one subject has been under investigation out of 159 in total. And that is not a benign situation: is someone responsible – criminally, disciplinary, ethically – since the actors who are now officially, and have for years unofficially, been charged for millions – worth of financial abuse are not prosecuted and the evidence was definitely in possession of prosecution?

These questions do not stem from the need to criticize of what the situation was before, but from the need to point out that all reforms conducted in the past few years have not guaranteed that only those who demonstrate results are employed at the State Prosecutor’s ’s Office, but that even after all the implemented law reforms those who did not have any objective credit can work and make progress at the Prosecutor’s Office. In that manner, a couple of former Special Prosecutors are now officially hierarchically put on the position of Prosecutors in the Supreme State Court.

In the long run, until a just system of evaluation and progress according to merits is not established, the State Prosecutor’s Office will inevitably be facing staff issues and issues related to functionality.

The issue of old staff, those who cannot cope with different times and new tasks, was supposed to resolve the general issue of reelection of State Prosecutors, which in line with the Law on State Prosecutor’s Office was supposed to be done by 1st of July this year. The last publicly available information is that in July a public announcement for election of 78 state prosecutors has been made, with which the Prosecutor’s Council began the election procedures. The reelection happens, or happened, in total silence – which might be a sign of missed chance for a more thorough staff reform.

However, the Prosecutor’s Office is not the only body that has an issue with old staff who are not completely ready for an uncompromising fight against organised crime and high-level corruption. The existence of clans and confronting streams within the police has been marked with the inability to reach an agreement on appointing a Head of the Special Police Unit for months.

And the fact that despite the international and internal pressure the one trustworthy person that would be appealing to both the Director of the Police and the Chief Special Prosecutor could not be found, best explains how relevant and important the Special Police Unit (SPU) is and how much all the new subjects depend on it.

After appointing the Chief of the Police Department and filling vacancies, particularly expert seats in SPO and SPU , it is necessary for future success of the Special Prosecutor’s Office to secure the availability of database of other bodies, as well as speed up the work on a new judicial information system and a new case-management system at the Prosecutor’s Office.

The final law reforms have not entirely resolved the issues of cooperation of the Police and the Prosecutor’s Office in the context of the implementation of the new Law on Criminal Procedures (LCP). The new Montenegro Report 2015 of the European Commission points out these issues as well. Besides the technical aspect of the issue of cooperation and communication, a key problems is the divided responsibility and a clause that enables both the Prosecutor’s Office and the Police to have the initiative, which in a number of cases and particularly at a local level leads to passivity of both, while they are waiting for the other party to do or suggest something.

It is not less important to start working on the preparation of the Strategy of development of the State Prosecutor’s office for the interested public, in order for all the actors to be able to contribute to defining strategic questions that will be dealt with in the future. Finally, further improvement of the transparency of the work for the Prosecutor’s Office and the Police regarding the subjects of corruption and organized crime is a precondition for building trust between the Prosecutor’s Office and the public.

Dina Bajramspahić
Public policy researcher

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