Judges 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.
Last 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.