The Decision of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers dated 13 July, 2005 established a new authority – the Consultative Council of European Prosecutors (CCPE), which acts as an advisory body of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers. CCPE replaced the Conference of Prosecutors General of Europe (CPGE), operating since year 2000. The objective of the Conferences of Prosecutors General of Europe was seen in securing further wide-spreading of the Recommendation Rec (2000) 19 of the Committee of Ministers to Member States on the Role of Public Prosecution in the Criminal Justice System into the legal systems of individual Member States of the Council of Europe. This assignment was matched by the aim of the individual conferences. Materials from the individual conferences are available at http://www.coe.int/CCPE.
The first meeting of CCPE was held on 6 July, 2006 in Moscow. The activities of this authority consisting of representatives of the Council of Europe states significantly contribute to the implementation of the Recommendation Rec (2000) 19 on the Role of Public Prosecution in the Criminal Justice System (Rec (2000) 19) and represent the key instrument for conducting activities aimed at establishing the standard of public prosecution and principles of the rule of law. The task of CCPE is to present opinions concerning the functioning of Public Prosecution services and effectively facilitate the implementation of the above referred Recommendation Rec (2000) 19. Activities of CCPE are also aimed at the development of international judicial cooperation, including the modernization of European Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters and its Additional Protocols, establishing direct contacts between public prosecutor of different states, harmonization of mutual cooperation and increasing the efficiency if functioning of Public Prosecution authorities in this area. However, the essential activity of CCPE still remains to be the facilitation of implementation of the Recommendation Rec (2000) 19 into the national legal systems, collection of information on the functioning of Public Prosecution systems in individual national legal systems and elaboration of opinions on the issues associated with the position and functioning of the Public Prosecution in the system of criminal justice.
Each COE Member State may be represented in the CCPE. The CCPE Committee composed of four members and the nine-member work group meets as necessary, generally twice every year, and the plenary meeting of all CCPE members is held once a year. EU participation in CCPE activities is welcome. The status of observer is granted to the Holy See, USA, Japan and Mexico. The International Association of Prosecutors and MEDEL (Magistrats européens pour la démocratie et les libertés) traditionally send their representatives as well. CCPE also cooperates with the Consultative Council of European Judges (CCEJ).
Elaboration of opinions represents a significant portion of activities of CCPE, since CCPE is a consultative body of Committee of Ministers for general issues associated with the position and functioning of the Public Prosecution in individual Member States of the Council of Europe. Since year 2006 this body has adopted the following opinions:
Opinion No 1 (2007) CCPE on „Ways of improving international co-operation in the criminal justice field“
Opinion No 2 (2008) CCPE on „Alternatives to prosecution“
Opinion No 3 (2008) CCPE on the „Role of Prosecution Services outside the Criminal Law Field“
Opinion No 4 (2009) CCPE on the „Relations between Judges and Prosecutors in the democratic society“
Opinion No 5 (2010) CCPE on the „Role of public prosecution and juvenile justice“
Opinion No 6 (2011) CCPE on the „Relationship between prosecutors and the prison administration“
CCPE opinions are available at http://www.coe.int/CCPE
Throughout its existence, the Council of Europe has focused, among other things, also on the improvement of mechanisms of international cooperation in criminal matters; it became the foundation for this type of cooperation on the European level. As such it was no surprise that the first CCPE opinion of 2007 focused on the issue of “Ways of improving international co-operation in the criminal justice field”, more specifically on the possibilities of development of cooperation of public prosecutors in this area and establishing of certain coordination structures, which would undoubtedly contribute to the improvement of mechanisms of international cooperation in criminal matters. The opinion supports the development of other forms of international cooperation, which include in particular the European Judicial Network, EUROJUST, and others.
The second CCPE opinion of 2008 was adopted regarding the “Issue of alternatives to prosecution”. The opinion is based on art. 3 of the Recommendation Rec (2000) 19, which stipulates that „In certain criminal justice systems, public prosecutors also (…) decide on alternatives to prosecution“, and on the conclusions of the conference held in Celle in 2004 on the topic of jednak ze závěrů konference konané v Celle v roce 2004, na téma “Discretionary powers of public prosecution: opportunity or legality principle – advantages and disadvantages“. The opinion also takes into consideration the Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers Rec(87)18 Concerning the Simplification of Criminal Justice, Rec(85)11 on the Position of the Victim, and Rec(99)19 concerning Mediation in Criminal Matters, as well as other CoE activities in the area of restorative justice. The opinion also took into consideration the Council Framework Decision of 2001 on the standing of victims in criminal proceedings. The opinion implies that modern criminal justice should apply alternatives to criminal prosecution, if the nature and circumstances of the criminal offense allow it, and that the competent public authorities should secure the informedness of the general public regarding the nature and advantages associated with imposing alternative measures. It becomes aparent that a financial penalty or sentence of imprisonment on its own no longer presents a sufficiently effective reaction to violation of law at the beginning of the 21st century, which also applies in matters of criminal recidivism, compensation of victims or settlement of disputes. That is why public prosecutors should initiate imposition of alternative sanctions. On the other hand it is emphasized that alternatives of criminal prosecution must never prevent the victims from asserting their rights, in particular the right to damage compensation.
CCPE opinions also come to the attentio nof the European Court for Human Rights, as documented by the judgment of 2009 in the case of Case of Batsanina v. Russia, application no. 3932/02, 14/09/2009, www.echr.coe.int/ECHR/EN/hudoc, which quotes the Opinion No 3 on the “Role of Prosecution Services outside the Criminal Law Field “. In the course of its preparation, CCPE noted that most legal systems recognize responsibility of prosecutors for civil, business, social and administrative cases, and even responsibility for review of legality of certain acts of Ministries and other government agencies. This is why this question and in particular the general principles of this competence (observing the principle of division of state powers, the fact that deciding of certain cases pertains solely to courts after hearing the parties to the dispute) must continue to receive full atention.
The objectives of non-criminal competence of public prosecutors consisting in securing the principle of the rule of law (integrity of democratic decisions, principle of legality, compliance with the applicable legislation, correction of illegal decisions), protection of human rights and freedoms (mostly of those who are unable to protect their rights themselves – children, homeless persons of physically or mentally challenged persons), protection of assets and interests of the states and protection of public interest (public order) and last, but not least, harmonization of judicial jurisdiction (special remedial measures against final decisions of courts filed in the best interest of justice) .
Opinion no. 4 on “Relations between Judges and Prosecutors in the democratic society” of 2009 is a joint opinion of CCPE and CCJE. The opinion is focused on the basic aspects Sof exercising the functions of judges and public prosecutors, in particular on the issue of independence of exercising of their functions, observing fundamental human rights and and freedoms within their activities, objectivity and the principle of impartiality, and moreover also the issue of education of judges and public prosecutors (as well as the administrative staff), ethics and last but not least their relationships with the media. The explanatory report also contains related case law of the European Court of Chuman Rights and other international documents related to the position and activities of judges and public prosecutors in individual CoE member states.
The meaning of Opinion no. 5 on the “Role of public prosecution and juvenile justice” is to establish the principles for the procedure of public prosecutors involved in juvenile justice. “The opinion emphasizes that in juvenile cases the public prosecutors should on one hand very carefully consider the interest of the society and the objectives of criminal justice na on the other hand the special needs and vulnerability of adolescents. Adolescents, be they in the position of perpetrators of crime, victims or witness, deserve soecial attention, both in the course of investigation, as wel ass during trial proceedings, and they must always be able to understand the meaning of the proceedings. Public prosecutors must also carefully monitor the enforcement of judicial decisions concerning adolescents, especially those who were imprisoned or whose personal freedom has been restricted.
Opinion NO 6 on the “ Relationship between prosecutors and the prison administration”concerns relationships between public prosecutors and institutions responsible for persons, who were remanded in custody by a judicial authority or who were imprisoned as a result of a ccriminal conviction, as is defined in the Recommendation Rec (2006)2 of the Committee of Ministers to Member States on the European Prison Rules. The opinion saims to define the rules concerning public prosecutors in the course of performing their duties in relation to persons who have been imprisoned, in particular to:
- define the areas of activities involving the conditions of supervision over detention, which make sure that laws and human rights are observed and also to support correction of inmates and their reintegration to society under the best possible conditions,
- increase the informendness of all competent authorities, including members of public prosecution services, in order to effectively perform their tasks entrusted to them by the national legislation regulating the issues concerned,
- emphasize the fundamental principles and certain measures defined in the Recommendation Rec (2006)2 with the aim to raise awareness and facilitate compliance with these principles by all authorities involved .
CCPE Opinions and Recommendation Rec (2000) 19 on the Role of Public Prosecution in the Criminal Justice System are available on the Council of Europe website – http://www.coe.int/CCPE.
Member of CCPE for the Prosecutor General’s Office is JUDr. Jana Zezulová, Ph.D.