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Openness of courts and public prosecution offices in the region is on unsatisfactory level

Openness of courts and public prosecution offices in the region is on unsatisfactory level, the research on the level of openness of judicial bodies in the region, conducted in six countries within the framework of the project ACTION SEE – Accountability, Technology and Institutional Openness Network in Southeastern Europe, implemented by Metamorphosis Foundation for internet and society, has shown.

On average, courts in the region have a score of 48% under the indicators on openness, whilst the public prosecution offices have a score of 40%. Courts and public prosecution offices must have independent position in the system in power and in their work, they must adhere to the basic principles: impartiality, accountability, efficiency and transparency.

Courts’ transparency is an element of high importance which contributes to judiciary’s independence, and the transparency in terms of performance of courts and publicity of court proceedings can contribute to increased citizens’ confidence in the judiciary.

Courts in the Republic of Macedonia have scored 52% under the indicators on openness, whereas the Judicial Council of the Republic of Macedonia has insignificantly better score of 58%.

As regards public prosecution offices, the State Public Prosecution Office of the Republic of Macedonia has a score of 51% under the indicators on openness, the Council of Public Prosecutors has scored only 38%, and insufficient score of 26% is on the part of the Basic and Higher Public Prosecution Offices.

Regarding the principles of transparency, accessibility, integrity and effectiveness, which served as baseline for this research, courts have the lowest score under indicators on transparency, standing at only 33%, including indicators on publication of information on organizational structure, operational budget, and publication and access to information on public procurements. In order to improve their transparency, Basic Courts need to publish annual operation reports on their respective websites, which was duly observed as major shortcoming under this research. Great deal of Basic Courts has failed to publish and/or upload said reports, which affected their low scores under indicators on transparency.

Openness of public prosecution offices in the Republic of Macedonia

The score of 26% under the indicators on openness calculated for public prosecution offices is extremely low. Single group of institutions with lower performance under the index of openness concerns the independent executive institutions in the Republic of Macedonia, with a score of 24% under relevant indicators. The situation is better, but still unsatisfactory, in the case of the State Public Prosecution Office of the Republic of Macedonia, with a score of 51% under the indicators on openness. The Council of Public Prosecutors is also characterized by extremely low openness, with a score of only 38% under relevant indicators.

Basic and Higher prosecution offices

Analysed in terms of categories, basic public prosecution offices have a defeating score of 1% under indicators on transparency, as they do not have own websites where they would publish data such as: current strategies, operation programmes and plans; annual reports; competences; organograms; staff members, including name and surname, and salary brackets of public prosecutors; etc. Said categories of information, with the exception of annual reports, are not uploaded on the website of the State Prosecution Office as well.

Public Prosecution Office of the Republic of Macedonia

Average score of 51% calculated for the Public Prosecution Office under the indicators on openness is higher, but it is still unsatisfactory. This prosecution office has the highest score under accessibility, i.e. access to public information – 75%, while its lowest score is noted under transparency – 37%. In spite of the fact that this office is the highest body within the prosecution service hierarchy before which basic and higher prosecution offices are held accountable and should therefore serve as example, it has failed to publish any information related to its budget and is therefore assigned a score of 1% under these indicators.

Council of Public Prosecutors

The Council of Public Prosecutor has score of only 38% under the indicators on openness and proves to be yet another weak link in the system of prosecution services. The Council has the lowest scores for accessibility, as it fails to demonstrate any performance under indicators on access to information, however the highest of its scores are under the indicators on integrity (72%), i.e. 82% for the code of conduct and 62% for independence. Its score under the indicators on transparency is exceptionally low and stands at 27%, in particular due to the fact that the Council does not publish information on public procurements, basic documents such as reports, operation plans or strategies, and its budget.

Remarks of the European Commission presented in its last country report are serious[1], and underline the need for urgent efforts for reforms at judicial bodies.

The analysis of openness of judicial bodies in the region and Macedonia is an activity within the framework of the project ACTION SEE – Accountability, Technology and Institutional Openness Network in Southeastern Europe, implemented with financial support by the European Union.

The analysis is available for download at Metamorphosis Foundation’s website.

[1] European Commission’s 2016 Country Report for the Republic of Macedonia, https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/pdf/key_documents/2016/20161109_report_the_former_yugoslav_republic_of_macedonia.pdf, page 13 and 54.