As promised an update about the hearing of colleague Miroslava Todorova before the Supreme Adminstrative Council (SAC) in Sofia. Judges for Judges attended the hearing last Thursday, together with obervers from ICJ and MEDEL. The president of the five members’ panel welcomed the observers and their interpreter explicitly. Todorova was not present herself. The date initially set for the hearing had been postponed and last Thursday, Todorova had court sessions in the Sofia Regional Court herself. The SAC allowed the representative of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), Todorova’s counsel (Mrs. I. Lulcheva) and the prosecutor (who has an advisory role in the disciplinary proceedings) to plea. Subject of appeal was the judgment of the three members’ panel of the SAC of July 1st 2014, holding Todorova’s demotion for a period of one year. Whereas in July 2013, the prosecutor supported Todorova and advised the SAC to annul the dismissal, this time, unfortunately, it underlined the SJC’s view that the (five members’ panel of the) SAC should order Todorova’s demotion for a period of two years. In short, Todorova’s main arguments are that the demotion is in violation with the principle of ne bis in idem (given her salary cut in 2012 for the same act: delay in issuing the reasoning in a number of cases), that the statutory limitation period for initiating discplinary proceedings has not been considered, and that the circumstances of the case (a.o. her heavy caseload and her de facto leave from the court after the dismissal) should be given more weight. It appears that the SAC’s judgment of July 1st, 2014 – which will be translated in English soon – gives space for a full reconsideration. It is not clear when the five members panel of the SAC will deliver its judgment. We will keep you informed. Judges and Judges and ICJ will prepare a trial observation report.
In short: Todorova served many years as an outstanding judge in the criminal section of the Sofia City Court and as the leader of the Bulgarian Judges’ Association. In that last capacity, in 2009-2012, she was critical of interferences by the executive branch of government in the work of the judiciary, and of the consistently poor management of Bulgaria’s judiciary. Following to accusations of influence and bias in organised crime cases by the then Minister for Interior Affairs, Todorova filed a court case for slander against him. Subsequently, she was dismissed from the judiciary by the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) on 12 July 2012. The official ground for her dismissal was the long delays in issuing the reasoning in a number of court cases.
We informed you about the different stages in these proceedings, and the annulment of the dismissal, before. [See this link].
On 16 July 2013, the so called five members panel of the Supreme Administrative Council (SAC) ordered the SJC to take a new decision. The SJC’s decision that followed, on 27 March 2014, was the demotion of Todorova from the Sofia City Court to the Sofia Regional Court for a period of two years. Todorova requested the suspension of the implementation of the ruling, but this request was rejected by the SAC in two instances. On Todorova’s appeal to the SJC’s new sanction – the second gravest after dismissal – the (three members panel of the) SAC upheld the demotion, but reduced it to one year. Both the SJC and Todorova lodged an appeal against the SAC’s judgment. It is this appeal that will be subject of the hearing that will take place before the five member panel of the SAC, this Thursday at 10:30h in Sofia.
On behalf of Judges for Judges, Janneke Bockwinkel, will attend this hearing, together with observers from MEDEL and ICJ. We will give an account of the hearing in a few days.
- Justice Moses Chinhengo (ICJ Commissioner) and Lloyd Kuveya (ICJ Legal Advisor) paid a fleeting visit to the Netherlands between 4-6 June 2014 to follow a programme prepared by Judges for Judges at the request of and together with Zimbabwe Watch.
- Commissioner Jolien Schukking writes about the ICJ mission to Russia and her involvement in the selection, appointment and promotion of judges.
- Werner Stemker Köster writes about the judicial developments in ‘his’ Slovakia.
- Finally, Janneke Bockwinkel, our trial-observer in Bulgaria, sketches the input of Judges for Judges during the visit by a group of Bulgarian judges to the Netherlands. It was organised by Judges for Judges to discuss a ‘twinning’ project.
In het redactioneel van het Nederlands Tijdschrift voor de Mensenrechten (NTM 39-4 2014 ) wordt ook aandacht besteed aan de activiteiten van Rechters voor Rechters.
‘Bent u wel eens bang geweest?’ vraagt een Nederlandse rechter aan zijn Oekraïense (ontslagen) collega Oleksandr Volkov. ‘Als je dat toelaat, ben je verloren’, antwoordt Volkov met een sceptisch en tegelijk onverschrokken glimlachje.
Het EHRM laat er gelukkig geen misverstand over bestaan dat ‘issues concerning the functioning of the justice system constitute questions of public interest, the debate of which enjoys the protection of Article 10. Even if an issue under debate has political implications, this is not in itself sufficient to prevent a judge from making a statement of the matter.’ In het kader van de proportionaliteitstoets wijst het EHRM er vervolgens op dat ‘the fear of sanction has a “chilling effect” on the exercise of freedom of expression and in particular risks discouraging judges from making critical remarks about public institutions or policies, for fear of losing their judicial office.’ Het EHRM wijst er vervolgens op dat this chilling effect niet slechts de rechter raakt, maar society as a whole.
The ICJ condemns the imminent “trial” of Constitutional Court judges by Bolivia’s Senate, in proceedings that could see the judges sent to prison over politicians’ disagreement with a legal ruling.
The proceedings “violate the independence of the judiciary and the right to fair trial,” the Geneva-based organization wrote today in an open letter to all Senators and Deputies of the legislative assembly.
The charges in the trial, scheduled to begin on 21 October, are based entirely on a precautionary ruling by the judges that parts of a new law regulating notaries should not be implemented until the Court has an opportunity to hear a constitutional challenge to the law.
“The spectacle of dozens of politicians pretending to act as an independent and impartial criminal court, threatening to throw constitutional court judges in jail over a difference of opinion as to interpretation of the law, is incompatible with respect for human rights, the separation of powers, and the rule of law,” said Matt Pollard, Head of the Centre for Independence of Judges and Lawyers at the ICJ.
Constitutional Court Judges Soraida Rosario Chanez Chire and Ligia Mónica Velásquez Castaños are to be tried on 21 October, while proceedings against Judge Gualberto Cusi Mamani have reportedly been temporarily suspended for reasons of health. The judges were suspended from duty on 28 July. Lees verder…;
‘We zetten ons al schrap en hielden onze adem in, maar dat bleek tot onze verrassing helemaal niet nodig’ aldus de twee leden van de Zimbabwaanse delegatie van de International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) toen mede-bestuurslid Evert van der Molen de deur naar de cellengang openzwaaide tijdens een rondleiding in ‘zijn’ gerechtsgebouw De Appelaar in Haarlem.
In deze nieuwsbrief treft u daarom in het kader van andere internationale uitwisselingen wat leesvoer voor ’n lome middag in de tuin dan wel voor ‘n zwoele zomeravond op het terras.
Onze blik is ditmaal voornamelijk naar het oosten gericht.
Bestuurslid Jolien Schukking schrijft over haar deelname aan een ICJ-missie naar Rusland rond het thema Selectie, Benoeming en Promotie van Rechters. Werner Stemker Köster – jawel de collega waar op onze bijeenkomst van 26 maart 2014 [www] oud-ambassadeur (thans directeur Europa) Daphne Bergsma zo enthousiast over sprak – schrijft over de ontwikkelingen in de rechterlijke macht in ‘zijn’ Slowakije [www]. Ten slotte schetst Janneke Bockwinkel (onze trial-watcher in Bulgarije [www]) de inbreng van Rechters voor Rechters bij het bezoek in juni van een groep Bulgaarse rechters aan Nederland in het kader van een twinningproject georganiseerd door de NVvR.
Zo beschrijft Justice Chinengo in dat kader een trial observation waarbij het groepje uit verschillende Afrikaanse landen afkomstige gezaghebbende rechters van ’s ochtends vroeg tot het einde van de zittingsdag inclusief lunch en alle theepauzes de rechters in (Afrikaanse) solidariteit heeft ‘begeleid’ . Dit opdat de betrokken rechters weten dat er met ze wordt meegekeken en dat zij zich realiseren dat ‘they have to do, what they have to do’, rechtspreken dus en niets anders. En geldt dat eigenlijk ook niet voor ons allen.
’n Mooie zomer toegewenst, met warme groet!
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De onafhankelijkheid en onpartijdigheid van de rechter: holle frase of dagelijks richtsnoer? In deze bijdrage schrijft de voorzitter van Rechters voor Rechters waarom de Stichting zich inzet voor dappere rechters als de Venezolaanse María Lourdes Afiuni, de Servische Dragana Boljević en de Oekraïense Oleksandr Volkov.
Een onafhankelijke rechterlijke macht in een land kan alleen bestaan bij de gratie van individuele rechters die de durf en persoonlijke moed hebben om ook in zware tijden een rechte rug te houden en de ruimte te bevechten om in onpartijdigheid recht te doen zonder aanzien des persoons. En dat is voor deze rechters dan geen holle frase maar een dagelijks richtsnoer. Dit zijn mensen die op de momenten dat het erop aankomt, daadwerkelijk bereid zijn om de consequenties te aanvaarden die horen bij een integere invulling van het rechtersambt.
The ICJ’s Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers (CIJL) has launched the first in a series of Country Profiles, a new online tool on the ICJ’s website.
Profiles on Myanmar, the Russian Federation, South Sudan and Swaziland are being published today. Tunisia, Venezuela and Honduras will be added in the coming months. By the end of 2014, all five regions in which the ICJ is active will be represented (Asia-Pacific, Africa, Europe, Latin America, MENA). The CIJL plans to add further countries on an on-going basis, and periodically to update existing profiles.
Each profile summarises information about the independence of judges, lawyers and prosecutors in the country, and assesses the situation against relevant international law and standards. The profiles aim to provide users, including legal professionals, academics, government officials and human rights defenders, with material in an accessible format which can also be used for further analysis. Lees verder…;
Statement on judiciary in Russian Federation, and individual case of Judge María Lourdes Afiuni in Venezuela | CIJLGepubliceerd op: 17 juni 2014 in: CIJL_ICJ, Rusland, Swaziland, Venezuela | Nog geen reacties
Statement on judiciary in Russian Federation, and individual cases in Venezuela and Swaziland
The ICJ today made an oral statement at the UN Human Rights Council, in the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, responding to her report on her visit to the Russian Federation.
The statement also highlighted the case of reprisals against judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni from Venezuela, and the arbitrary detention and unfair trial of human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko and journalist Bheki Makhubu in Swaziland.
The statement affirmed that although some progress has been made in legal and institutional reforms to develop an independent and impartial judiciary in Russia, advances remain extremely fragile and are threatened by retrogressive legislative measures, by corruption and by undue influence.
The greatest obstacle is a pervasive mind-set amongst judges who see themselves as executive officials rather than as exercising an autonomous judicial role.
The statement discussed improper influence in selection, appointments and removals of judges in Russia.
It also stressed concerns around the merger of the Supreme Court and High Arbitration Court into a new unified Supreme Court for the Russian Federation.
The ICJ also highlighted the case of Judge María Lourdes Afiuni from Venzuela, emblematic of a wider crisis for the rule of law in Venezuela.
After a lengthy period of arbitrary detention in which she was subjected to gross abuses, she remains enmeshed in a seemingly endless criminal procedure.
She was targeted solely for having duly performed her functions as a judge, after she ended a detention that had been recognised as arbitrary by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
The statement also thanked the Special Rapporteur for her press release, issued jointly with three other special procedures on 12 June, about human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko and journalist Bheki Makhubu, who are under arbitrary detention and unfair trial in Swaziland.
The representatives of Venezuela interrupted the ICJ statement, invoking a point of order.
In her closing comments, the Special Rapporteur reiterated her concerns about the case of Judge Afiuni, calling once again for all charges against her to be dropped and for her to be reinstated.
The ICJ June 2014 report on the rule of law in Venezuela is available here.
A 2012 ICJ report on disciplinary procedures applicable to judges in Russia is available here.
- ICJ-HRC26-Statement judiciary Russia-advocacy-non legal submission-2014 (full text in pdf)
Source: 16.06.2014. http://www.icj.org/?p=29677. Republished with permission.
On 27 March 2014, the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) of Bulgaria reduced the disciplinary penalty imposed on her from dismissal, to demotion for a period of two years.
In imposing the new disciplinary sanction, the SJC said it was faulting her for delays in delivering judgment in several cases. The alleged faults occured some nine years ago.
The SJC sanctioned Judge Todorova to demotion for a period of two years. Whereas she had previously served on the Sofia City Court, during this two-year period she is permitted to work only in the lower level Sofia District Court. According to Bulgarian law, demotion is the second-most serious disciplinary sanction for a judge, one step less serious than dismissal.
Originally, in July 2012, the SJC decided to dismiss Judge Todorova from judicial service. Its decision was however quashed by the Supreme Administrative Council on 16 July 2013, on the basis that dismissal was disproportionate.
At the time, Lees verder…;