Italy's Magistrates Criticize Government Plan to Separate Prosecutor and Judge Careers

Italy's National Association of Magistrates chief Giuseppe Santalucia criticizes government's plan to separate prosecutor and judge careers, warning it will weaken magistrates. Justice Minister Carlo Nordio defends the plan, sparking debate over judiciary autonomy and effectiveness.

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Nitish Verma
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Italy's Magistrates Criticize Government Plan to Separate Prosecutor and Judge Careers

Italy's Magistrates Criticize Government Plan to Separate Prosecutor and Judge Careers

Giuseppe Santalucia, the head of Italy's National Association of Magistrates (ANM), has strongly criticized the government's plan to separate the career paths of prosecutors and judges. Speaking at the ANM's 36th annual convention in Rome on May 10, 2024, Santalucia warned that this move would weaken Italy's magistrates, particularly in the criminal jurisdiction.

Why this matters: The separation of prosecutor and judge careers could have far-reaching implications for the administration of justice in Italy, potentially undermining the independence and effectiveness of the judiciary. This could lead to a decrease in public trust and confidence in the legal system, ultimately affecting the country's social and political stability.

Santalucia expressed his concerns bluntly, stating, "The project of separating careers, stubbornly pursued even after the separation of functions has been diluted to the extreme, carries with it the germ of weakening the jurisdiction, at least the criminal one." He argued that the government is "messing with the Constitution" by failing to understand the importance of having prosecutors and judges belong to the same order and share similar training and culture.

In addition to the career separation plan, Santalucia also took aim at Justice Minister Carlo Nordio's bill, which seeks to limit the publication of information obtained from wiretaps in criminal investigations. The ANM president believes this bill "represents a push to reduce judicial action boundaries," which could hinder important probes.

Despite the strong opposition from the magistrates, Justice Minister Nordio attended the ANM congress and defended his position. He emphasized that "It is not the suspect who proves his innocence, this is blasphemy in a democratic civilisation. It is the accuser who must prove the guilt of the suspect." Nordio's presence at the event was seen as significant, given the initial doubts about his participation.

Deputy Minister of Justice Francesco Paolo Sisto attempted to reassure the prosecutors and judges, stressing the importance of dialogue and the need to maintain the autonomy and independence of the judiciary. He stated, "To place the general interest above particular ones there is only one way: dialogue. Justice must not be a terrain of conflict, but of contradiction. All this is possible if autonomy remains intact and the independence of the judiciary."

The ANM congress took place amid a tense political climate, with Northern League leader Matteo Salvini making controversial statements questioning the integrity of magistrates in a recent case involving the arrest of the governor of Liguria, Giovanni Toti. Santalucia also criticized the abrogation of the crime of abuse of office, viewing it as another attempt to reduce the incidence of judicial action.

As the debate over the separation of prosecutor and judge careers continues, the autonomy and effectiveness of Italy's judiciary hang in the balance. The outcome of this contentious issue will have far-reaching implications for the country's legal system and the administration of justice.