Analysis
14 July 2020

The challenges brought to the independence of the French Public Prosecutor’s Office

Bastille Day Newsletter 2020 - 3-lines outline of some noteworthy events

 

Recent statements by the former French Financial Prosecutor, Eliane Houlette, before the Parliamentary Board of Inquiry1, has revived the debate on the independence of the French Prosecutor vis-à-vis the executive power.

Indeed, she stated that the independence of French prosecutors, in particular of the French Financial Prosecutor Office (“PNF”), is hampered by a number of obstacles2. Among these, the power of the General Prosecutor’s Office, directly linked to the Minister for Justice, to provide general instructions and to request reports on pending cases from the PNF:

“So, in practical and concrete terms, the feeling of dependency [from the executive power] is something I have experienced within the performance of my duties. […] the problem is that through general instructions and special reports, the General Prosecutor’s Office grants himself a right of oversight over the conduct and policy choices of public prosecutors. […] And this right to oversee is omnipresent. […] The question that we can actually ask ourselves is why does the General Prosecutor’s Office have this right to oversee the public prosecution, through specific cases? How should we understand it? Is he acting for himself or for someone else? 3.

These statements caused quite a stir, namely considering that Eliane Houlette conducted the investigation of the former French prime Minister François Fillon and his wife, who were accused of misappropriation of public assets and that she reported pressure from the General Prosecutor’s Office to provide and communicate information pertaining to this case.

Another former investigative magistrate, Renaud Van Ruymbeke, condemned the lack of independence of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, stating that politicians have never lobbied for it4.

In addition, a few days before his appointment as French Minister of Justice, Eric Dupond Moretti, a French criminal lawyer, filed a complaint against X before the Paris Prosecutor office after having been secretly wiretapped by the PNF during an investigation held in 2014 regarding corruption facts involving the former French President Nicolas Sarkozy5. He finally withdrew his complaint after his appointment and stated that he will campaign for the reform regarding the independence of the justice:

I want to progress on a subject that is close to my heart: the independence of the justice system. I wish to be the Minister of Justice who will finally bring the long-awaited reform of the Public Prosecutor’s Office to a congress6.

Related content

Publication
14 July 2021
Bastille Day Newsletter 2021
Happy 2021 Bastille Day! Lawyers at Navacelle thought you might be interested in reviewing a selection we made of noticeable events which occurred in France i...
Stéphane de Navacelle
Managing partner Navacelle
Clémentine Duverne
Partner Navacelle
Julie Zorrilla
Partner Navacelle
Analysis
The in-house attorney status in France: a bygone idea or an emerging one?
Bastille Day Newsletter 2021 - Legislative, Regulatory & Policy Updates
Analysis
The evaluation mission of the Sapin II law calls for a boost in France’s anti-corruption policy
Bastille Day Newsletter 2021 - Legislative, Regulatory & Policy Updates
Analysis
Criminal liability’s transfer to the acquiring company in the event of a merger by acquisition and consecutive due dil...
Bastille Day Newsletter 2021 - Enforcement & Court Decisions
Analysis
The PNF looks back on a very unusual 2020 year
Bastille Day Newsletter 2021 - Legislative, Regulatory & Policy Updates
Analysis
Compliance in the public sector: The Ministry of the Armed Forces issued its Code of prevention of breaches of probity
Bastille Day Newsletter 2021 - Legislative, Regulatory & Policy Updates
Analysis
What will be the impact of the transposition of the EU Directive on the protection of whistleblowers into French law?
Bastille Day Newsletter 2021 - Legislative, Regulatory & Policy updates
Analysis
The professional secrecy threatened by recent case law on seizure
Bastille Day Newsletter 2021 - Enforcement & Court Decisions
Analysis
Short overview of the French legal requirement for internal controls relating to the AML-CFT
Bastille Day Newsletter 2021 - Legislative, Regulatory & Policy Updates
Analysis
Preserving the primacy of due process and fair trial rights in the special context of the Coronavirus pandemic
Bastille Day Newsletter 2021 - Enforcement & Court Decisions