Christiana Stilianidou 08 • 07 • 2019

Presidential Decree transfers supervision of penal sentences from the Ministry of Justice to the Ministry of Citizen Protection

Christiana Stilianidou
Presidential Decree transfers supervision of penal sentences from the Ministry of Justice to the Ministry of Citizen Protection
08 • 07 • 2019

Presidential Decree 81/2019 transfers a series of responsibilities and bodies concerning criminal/penal policy from the Ministry of Justice to the Ministry of Citizen Protection. This raised concerns because the supervision of penal sentences is part of the justice system, and responsibility should therefore belong to the Ministry of Justice. The Ministry of Citizen Protection which already holds responsibility for the Greek Police also supervising penal policy may not be in line with international and European mandates.

Paragraph 2 of article 5 of Presidential Decree 81/2019 (which was issued just one day after the national elections) transferred a number of services, as a set of responsibilities, positions, institutions and personnel, to the Ministry of Citizen Protection: the General Secretariat of Anti-Crime Policy, including all the organizational units subordinate to it; except for the Juvenile Protection Services, the Forensic Service and the Juvenile Probation and Social Assistance Services, which remain in the Ministry of Justice”.

a) Penal policy is, as a rule in most European countries, tasked to the Ministry of Justice, as it was in Greece for many years (see E. Fitrakis, p. 2 and M. Skandamis, p. 15 in Criminologists – EEMEKE Newsletter).

b) The enforcement of sentences, prison conditions and the rights of prisoners are directly and inextricably linked to the justice system (see the 16-7-2019 decision of the Coordinating Committee of the Plenary of the Presidents of the Bar Associations of Greece). For this reason, Presidential Decree 81/2019 was considered to be in tension with the principle of the separation of powers, with article 47 paragraph 1 of the Constitution, and with the jurisprudential principle of tying the enforcement of sentences to the constitutional function of justice (see more on this from Sotiropoulou).

c) The purpose of imposing penal sentences is not only to punish but also to rehabilitate the prisoner. In a state governed by the rule of of law, penal sentences must be imposed with respect for judicial decisions as well as for the rights of prisoners, taking into account the subsequent social reintegration of the convicted.

d) The main pillars of the criminal justice system, including the police and prisons, are and must remain independent of each other (see statement from the National Human Rights Commission). As the Ombudsman also stresses in their 2019 annual report 2019 (pp. 142-3), the subordination of prison policy and the control of prisons to the competence of the same Ministry as the police, should be completed institutionally in a way which ensures respect of the principle of keeping the police separate from the correctional service, and particularly that any regulation that could provide police authorities with jurisdiction over prisons is avoided, as international and European texts require.

Where is the problem with the rule of law?

The supervision of penal sentences and prison policy in general  are part of the criminal justice system. Tasking prison policy to the Ministry of Justice serves both substantive and symbolic purposes.

Presidential Decree 81/2019 transfers responsibility for the correctional services from the Ministry of Justice to the Ministry of Citizen Protection, which also supervises the Greek Police. This move brings into question to what extent the requirements of the Constitution as well as international and European texts and practices regarding the planning and implementation of anti-crime and penitentiary policy can be effectively respected .

Christiana Stilianidou
Submit a report if you have detected a violation of the rule of law!
Support govwatch