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29 MAY 2002

ICELAND / INFO

Section 25 of the Code of Criminal Procedure provides that the Prosecutor General is the highest holder of prosecution authority. The Prosecutor General is an independent official.

Article 61 of the Constitution provides that in exercising their official functions, judges shall be guided solely by the law.

The Act on the Rights and Duties of Public Servants, No. 70/1996, protects officials against arbitrary dismissal from office. The Act provides that prosecutors, the Prosecutor General, district court judges and Supreme Court judges are officials.

According to Section 23 of the Public Servants Act an official shall, subject to other statute provisions, be commissioned for a term of five years. Any official shall be notified not later than six months in advance of its expiry whether the office shall be advertised as vacant. If this is not done his commission is automatically prolonged for another term of five years, unless the official requests to be relieved.

Section 26 provides that an administrative authority granting a commission may relieve an official temporarily of his duties if he has evinced absenteeism or other negligence, disobedience to a superior’s lawful order or prohibition or ineptitude or carelessness in his work, has failed to achieve adequate results, has attended his duties under the influence, or if his conduct in employment or privately are in other respects deemed unbecoming, inappropriate, or incompatible with his office.

The same applies if an official is in charge of funds or accounts, and there are reasons to assume, or is deemed certain, that his management of funds or the keeping of accounts is in disorder, and if an official is suspected of conduct that would cause deprivation of rights as provided for in Section 68 of the GPC.

If an official has been temporarily relieved on account of alleged dereliction of duty the matter shall immediately be investigated by a committee of experts in order to ascertain whether he is to be relieved of his duties permanently or reinstalled in office (Section 27 of the Public Servants’ Act). An administrative authority and the official may however always refer the matter to an investigation as provided for in the Code of Criminal Procedure. The committee charged with investigation of the case of an official shall consist of three members with expert knowledge of public administration, appointed by the Minister of Finance. The committee shall provide a reasoned opinion of whether temporary relief of the official in question was justified. If the majority of the committee is of this opinion, the commission authority shall dismiss him permanently. As provided for in Section 32 of the Act, the person in question can seek a judicial resolution on the legality of the measure and a possible right of compensation.

Separate rules apply to a judge’s dismissal. Article 61 of the Constitution provides that in the exercise of their official functions, judges shall be guided solely by the law. Judges can not be dismissed from office except by judgment, and they can not be transferred to another judicial office against their will, except in case of a reorganisation of the court system.

Only the President of Iceland can dismiss from office the Prosecutor General and a judge of the Supreme Court, in which case litigation must be commenced without delay. The Minister of Justice can dismiss district court judges and prosecutors and from office subject to the rules described above.

* * *

The Act on the Rights and Duties of Public Servants applies to prosecutors. According to Section 14 of the Act, a public servant shall in every respect discharge his duties faithfully and conscientiously. A public servant shall avoid any acts of disgrace or disrepute, and any acts suited to detract from the reputation of his position or profession. Section 20 of the Act furthermore restricts the right of public servants to accept paid employment in the service of another party, undertake a position of leadership in a business enterprise or to embark upon a business enterprise jointly with public employment. If such extra employment is not considered compatible with the principal employment, the public servant may be prohibited from pursuing the extra employment. This prohibition may be referred to the relevant Minister of the Government.