Bulgarian Judges, Human Rights NGO, Oppose Results of Sofia City Court Inspection

Domestic | July 28, 2011, Thursday // 15:42|  views

Anna Karaivanova, Chief Inspector at the VSS Inspectorate, has had to face scathing criticism over the newly published report of the unit on the Criminal Division of the Sofia City Court. Photo by BGNES

Criminal judges from the Sofia City Court (SCC) have opposed the probe carried out by the Inspectorate at Bulgaria's Supreme Judicial Council (VSS).

The magistrates have filed their objections to the Chief Inspector at the VSS Inspectorate, Anna Karaivanova, complaining of "formalistic conclusions" and demanding an "exhaustive and in-depth check of their activities".

On July 26, VSS distributed the results of its inspection of SCC's Criminal Division for the period January 2010 - June 2011.

VSS members conclude that protracted trials obstruct the establishment of the objective truth and encroach upon the rights of the defendants and the victims of crime.

The VSS Inspectorate recommends that Vladimira Yaneva, the new and questionably appointed VSS Chair and close friend of Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, should closely supervise the setting of trial dates and analyze the reasons for the delays.

Further down in the same document, VSS inspectors propose disciplinary action against Yaneva over an outstanding number of unreasonably delayed trials.

The judges, however, believe that the conclusions do not take into account the number, type and complexity of the cases heard by each of them.

They also complain of the misguided criteria for estimating the workload of each magistrate.

Georgi Kolev, Chair of the Supreme Administrative Court, whose appointment has been equally controversial, has echoed the opinion that the VSS Inspectorate must take stock of the overall workload of the judges in the course of inspections.

In his words, disciplinary action is inevitable, following the conclusions of the recent probe, while the question of penalties is yet to be decided by VSS.

The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) has also expressed its deep indignation at the Inspectorate's conclusions about the work of the magistrates.

According to the NGO, the inspection is largely "ad hoc"and is aimed at victimizing and obstructing judges who fight for reforms in the management of the judiciary.

The independent human rights organization also dubs the check unfair, citing the "narrowminded, formalistic and superficial" criteria used.

The statement insists that VSS has proved to be a body seeking to oppress judges by instilling injustice among them.

VSS's policy of supressing the reform-oriented opposition in the judges guild and of rendering the judges powerless through inhumane workloads is not accidental, BHC claims.

It serves VSS' policy of preserving the status-quo which involves a specific interplay of the personal interests of its members.

BHC further insists that the check is out of schedule and encompasses an entire division in the biggest district court in the country, which has never been done before.

The NGO also emphasizes that the unprecedented check includes all judges, despite the fact that there has been evidence of irregularities carried out only by only the new SCC Chair.

BHC also draws attention to the exceptional speed of the compilation and publication of the report, which has never been witnessed in previous inspections.

In the meantime, it was announced that VSS has opened disciplinary action against Vladimira Yaneva, SCC Chair, Miroslava Todorova, Chair of the Union of Judges in Bulgaria (UJB) and Ivan Koev and Vladimir Astardzhiev, judges at SCC.

The reason for the step is the magistrates' "systematic failure to observe procedural deadlines", as indicated in the results of the probe conducted by the VSS Inspectorate.

The maximum penalty provided for such violations is dismissal.

The issue will resurface in September because VSS is closed for summer holiday as of July 28.

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Tags: VSS, VSS Inspectorate, Anna Karaivanova, Supreme Judicial Council, Sofia City Court, Vladimira Yaneva, Georgi Kolev, Supreme Administrative Court, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Union of Judges in Bulgaria


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