Tag Archives: Reform

PACE: Bulgaria Has Delivered “Cosmetic Changes” of the Judiciary

Serhiy Holovaty, chairman of the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has issued a report with findings from his visit in Bulgaria in November 2008.

He says:

“It is my general impression that, in the haste to meet the strenuous accession deadlines, some of the reforms and, in particular, the reform of the judiciary, have undergone numerous “cosmetic changes” that have pushed the reforms in an undesired direction. This was namely the case of the constitutional amendments and the amendments to the Judicial System Act adopted in February 2007.”

He pinpoints three specific problems:

  • lengthy preliminary proceedings in the criminal justice system;
  • low number of proceedings against high-level officials and civil servants involved in corruption cases;
  • non-execution of the Strasbourg Court judgments due to a low rate of reopening of criminal court cases following a judgment of the Strasbourg Court and to the absence of legal provisions enabling to do so in civil cases.

He goes on to say that:

Bulgaria remains a country with endemic corruption that has gained the ranks of the administration and the judiciary. (…)The weaknesses of the judiciary in Bulgaria have repercussions on most spheres of society which hampers the proper functioning of all democratic institutions.”

Now, it remains to be seen exactly in WHAT political context can the Bulgarian government explain any bias or ill will on behalf of Mr. Holovaty.

The Venice Commission Comments on New Judiciary Reforms in Bulgaria

The European Commission for Democracy Through Law (the Venice Commission ) has issued a report on the draft Law amending and supplementing the Law on Judicial Power of Bulgaria. as usual, the report is very balanced and written with substantial expertise.

Overall, the report supports the proposed amendments, but considers that the reform should be much more substantial.

An important critique in the report is towards some remaining elements of prosecutors’ powers “typically found in the traditional Soviet-style prokuratura model”. The report also reminds the Venice Commission objection to the fact that 11 members of the Supreme Judicial Council are still elected by Parliament by simple majority. The authors consider that the combination of powers in relation to judges prosecutors and investigators in a single judicial council (such as powers of appointment and discipline) remains problematical.