The Prosecution of Public Figures and the Separation of Powers: Confusion within the Executive Branch. A Conceptual Framework
Criminal investigation and prosecution of politicians, top civil servants and other public figures are topics frequently discussed in the media. The nature of the investigating or prosecuting authority varies between countries – from the general public prosecutor, through magistrates to independent counsels or parliamentary investigation commissions. This paper analyzes the role and status of public prosecutors within the separation of powers-concept. Prosecutors are usually part of the executive and not the judicial branch, which implies that they do not enjoy the same degree of independence as judges, and are ultimately subordinated to the directives of the minister of justice or the government. Conflicts of interest may hence arise if members of government can use the criminal process for their own or partisan interests. The incentives of public prosecutors in different jurisdictions are compared.
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