Bulgaria – new law restriction for judges and their organisations?

Gepubliceerd op: 26 juli 2017 in: Activiteiten, Algemeen, Bulgarije | Comments Off on Bulgaria – new law restriction for judges and their organisations?

On July 4 2017 five Members of the Parliament (three of them from the ruling party, including the chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of Legal Affairs) filed a legislative draft for amendments of the Judiciary System Act. This draft prescribes a.o.:

  • an obligation for each judge and prosecutor to declare before the Supreme Judicial Council whether he or she is a member of a magistrates’ organisation;
  • an obligation for professional organisations of judges and prosecutors to finance their activities exclusively from their members’ contribution fees or from donations made by their own members;
  • a prohibition for judges and prosecutors to receive any fees for participation as lecturers or experts if the activities are financed by “a foreign country or person”.

According to the explanatory notes, the aim of the restrictions and prohibitions is to preclude “foreign influences” and dependencies in the judiciary.

These amendments evoked strong protests, saying that these amendments will hinder the free association of magistrates in professional organisations and will threaten the functioning of these organisations. For more details, see:

In reaction to the protests, the Prime Minister announced that the Members of Parliament from his party will propose that financing from the European Union will be allowed to magistrates organizations.

The amendments will be subjected to further debate and “second reading” in Parliament, which – as it appears under (inter)national pressure – will now be scheduled after (instead of before) the summer recess.

Judges for Judges will follow the developments and keep you informed.

Disciplinary proceedings against Bulgarian judge Miroslava Todorova: implications for judicial independence

Gepubliceerd op: 24 juli 2017 in: Activiteiten, Algemeen, Bulgarije, CIJL_ICJ | Comments Off on Disciplinary proceedings against Bulgarian judge Miroslava Todorova: implications for judicial independence

In a report published today, Judges for Judges and the ICJ analyze disciplinary proceedings against Bulgarian Judge Miroslava Todorova in relation to international standards on judicial independence and accountability.

On 12 July 2012, the Supreme Judicial Council of Bulgaria dismissed Judge Miroslava Todorova, at that time a judge of the Sofia City Court and Chairperson of the Bulgarian Judges Association, on the grounds that she was responsible for delays in a number of cases. Subsequently, Judges for Judges and the ICJ followed the disciplinary proceedings against Todorova and sent trial observers to Sofia on two occasions, in May 2013 and November 2014.

In their findings, the ICJ and Judges for Judges do not address whether, and if so which, disciplinary sanctions may have been appropriate in this case. They note, however, that the disciplinary proceedings concerned delays, constituting judicial misconduct, in a context where according to many internal and external observers the workload between the courts is divided unevenly and may be very high for some.

The two organizations also note that, as the second three-judge panel pointed out, the overall organization of the workflow was never properly considered in considering and reaching a determination in the disciplinary case. With the quashing of the second three-judge panel’s decision, likewise other relevant circumstances were not taken into account. Furthermore, the report finds, disciplinary practice in Bulgaria is deficient in respect of its lack of predictability and consistency, and doubts expressed by many observers as to the independence of the Judicial Service Council muddy the waters further. The 2013 amendments to the legal framework only partially served to remedy the disciplinary practice’s deficiencies. In particular, a full right of defence that includes the opportunity for the defendant to address all arguments and evidence remained wanting at the time of the Todorova proceedings.

In the report, the ICJ and Judges for Judges also note the animosity towards Todorova from certain quarters in the Executive and SJC for her activities as the chair of the BJA in defence of judicial independence. Under the circumstances, there is an appearance that the disciplinary proceedings against Todorova were instituted and pursued selectively, and the system of the disciplinary proceedings in Bulgaria does not provide sufficient safeguards to dispel this appearance.
The disciplinary proceedings against Todorova demonstrate why it is crucial that accountability mechanisms be independent not only in theory but in practice, and for such mechanisms to be in some way themselves publicly accountable.

Bulgaria-The case of Todorova-Publications-Reports-Trial observation reports (full report, in PDF).

For additional background, see:

ICJ Practitioners Guide no 13, Judicial Accountability (2016, in PDF)

and more generally:

ICJ Practitioners Guide No 1, International Principles on the Independence and Accountability of Judges, Lawyers and Prosecutors (2007, in PDF)

Chair Judges for Judges interviewed for Bulgarian newspaper

Gepubliceerd op: 15 maart 2017 in: Activiteiten, Bulgarije | Comments Off on Chair Judges for Judges interviewed for Bulgarian newspaper

Interview CapitalDuring the last weekend of November 2016 the Bulgarian Judges Association organised a conference within the framework of the Project ‘Creating a favourable environment for an independent judiciary in Bulgaria’.

Our chair was invited as a guest speaker and was interviewed afterwards by journalist Mirela Veselinova of the newspaper Capital.

This interview was published on the website of Capital (click here) and on the Legalworld website (click here).

The final conference will be held on March 17th 2017 in Sofia.

Problems in Bulgaria are not dissimilar to those in Swaziland

Tamara Trotman is a judge at the Appellate Court of The Hague in the Netherlands and Chair of the Dutch-based foundation Judges for Judges.
At the end of November, Tamara Trotman visited Bulgaria as a guest speaker at a conference organised by the Bulgarian Judges Association within the framework of the Project ‘Creating a favourable environment for an independent judiciary in Bulgaria’, implemented in co-operation with the Dutch Association for the Judiciary (Nederlandse Vereniging voor Rechtspraak, NvvR). In her presentation, dedicated to judicial solidarity, Justice Trotman spoke about several cases of pressure being put on judges in different countries in Europe which have come to the attention of the foundation Judges for Judges.

Read more: click here to read the full interview and click here to read the additional text (both in English, translation: Boryana DESHEVA).

Protest of Bulgarian judges and open letter to Bulgarian citizens

Gepubliceerd op: 14 december 2015 in: Algemeen, Bulgarije | Comments Off on Protest of Bulgarian judges and open letter to Bulgarian citizens

Bulgaarse-vlagJudges from several courts in Sofia staged a protest in front of the Palace of Justice Friday evening December 11th 2015. The president of the Supreme Court of Cassation was one of them. The protest – along with other protests – followed the Parliaments refusal on December 9th to support constitutional changes proposed by the Minister of Justice, Hristo Ivanov and relating to judicial reform and the composition of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC). Right after the vote, Ivanov, announced his resignation, which was accepted by the Prime Minister Borisov. His deputies also resigned.

Last year Ivanov presented a package of legislative proposals aiming at the decrease of political influence over the judiciary and the division of the SJC in two separate colleges – one for judges and the other for prosecutors. Ivanov did not receive enough support from the ruling political party (GERB) and to a large extent, his proposals were rejected in parliament. In July 2015, a political compromise was reached on the division of the SJC: the judges’ college should have thirteen members – the presidents of the Supreme Court of Cassation and the Supreme Administrative Court, six judges elected by their peers and five members elected by the Parliament. The prosecutors’ college should have twelve members – the Prosecutor General, five prosecutors elected by their peers and six members elected by the Parliament.

BJALast Wednesday, the Parliament voted on different quota for the members SJC. The result is a higher number of political appointments in the judges’ college, and a stronger hand of the prosecutor-general in the prosecutors college.

The Bulgarian Judges Association (BJA) played an important (advisory) role in the reform process. After the Parliaments vote, the BJA addressed the citizens of Bulgaria in an open letter – a historic move – and explained why this issue is so important: “it gets down to the most fundamental problem – which is whether we can have judicial courts that are independent of politicians and whether we can rely on a prosecutor’s office which is independent of political interference”.

Please find the complete text of the letter here.

Judges for Judges strongly supports the colleagues in Bulgaria and the judicial reform they stand for.

Update about the hearing of Judge Miroslava Todorova

Gepubliceerd op: 17 november 2014 in: Activiteiten, Algemeen, Bulgarije | Nog geen reacties

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.

Judges for Judges observes hearing Judge Miroslava Todorova

Gepubliceerd op: 12 november 2014 in: Algemeen, Bulgarije | Nog geen reacties

Since July 2012 Judges for Judges has been following the disciplinary proceedings against our Bulgarian colleague Judge Miroslava Todorova.

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.

Our latest newsletter

Gepubliceerd op: 7 november 2014 in: Activiteiten, Algemeen, Bulgarije, Rusland, Slowakije, Zimbabwe | Nog geen reacties

Our latest newsletter is now available in english.

  • 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.

Click here for the newsletter (pdf) | Our archive | Lees hier hier het origineel in het Nederlands |

 

Nieuwsbrief 2014-02

Gepubliceerd op: 18 juli 2014 in: Activiteiten, Algemeen, Bulgarije, Rusland, Slowakije, Zimbabwe | Nog geen reacties

Vrienden van Rechters voor Rechters,

‘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.

[.. lees verder in de nieuwsbrief (pdf) ..]

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.

[.. lees verder in de nieuwsbrief (pdf) ..]

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!

Tamara Trotman

Voorzitter

 

[ archief  ]

Bulgaria: concerns remain about Todorova case | CIJL

Gepubliceerd op: 14 juni 2014 in: Bulgarije, CIJL_ICJ | Nog geen reacties

The ICJ remains concerned that the treatment of Bulgarian Judge Miroslava Todorova fails to accord with international standards on independence of the judiciary.

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…;

Ontwikkeling in ontslagzaak Bulgaarse collegarechter Miroslava Todorova

Gepubliceerd op: 3 april 2014 in: Activiteiten, Bulgarije | Nog geen reacties

Nadat de Supreme Administrative Council (SAC) te Sofia, Bulgarije, op 16 juli 2013 uitspraak had gedaan in hoogste instantie in de ontslagzaak van collegarechter Miroslava Todorova en had besloten dat de ontslagbeslissing disproportioneel was (zie ons bericht d.d. 17 juli 2013), werd de zaak terugverwezen naar de Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) voor het nemen van een nieuwe beslissing. Todorova werd ontslagen vanwege het (grote) tijdsverloop dat met de uitwerking van beslissingen op schrift was gemoeid. Althans dat was de officiële ontslaggrond, want alle ingewijden waren het er over eens dat dit ontslag een door de politiek ingegeven beslissing was. Lees verder…;