ICJ Condemns Controversial Dismissal of Bulgarian Judge

Society | August 29, 2012, Wednesday // 09:55|  views

Judge Miroslava Todorova, gained reputation as the strongest critic of the Supreme Judicial Council and Interior Minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov. Photo by BGNES

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), an international human rights NGO, has expressed its concern at the controversial dismissal of Bulgarian Judge Miroslava Todorova by the country's Supreme Judicial Council.

Without a hearing, Todorova was dismissed on July 12 by the Supreme Judicial Council on disciplinary grounds over her "unreasonable delay of proceedings."

However, the move is widely believed to have been triggered by her criticism of the Supreme Judicial Council and the libel suit she filed against Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov.

"In her capacity as Chairperson of the Bulgarian Judges Association, Judge Todorova has publicly highlighted problems in the Bulgarian judicial system, and has been a leading critic of the SJC. She has drawn attention to the repeated verbal attacks on the judiciary by members of the Government, in particular by the Minister of the Interior, which pose a threat to judicial independence in the country," ICJ has said in a statement.

"The ICJ considers that the case against Judge Todorova may involve a misuse of the judicial disciplinary process to remove a judge due to her publicly expressed concerns at government interference with judicial independence. Such misuse of the disciplinary process is contrary to the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, which protect the freedom of expression of judges (Principle 8) and the freedom of judges to form and join professional associations of judges, including for the purpose of protecting their independence (Principle 9)."

ICJ has reminded that long delays are endemic in the Bulgarian justice system, and the delay in Todorova's cases is therefore not unusual.

"The dismissal is contrary to principle 18 of the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, under which "judges shall be subject to suspension or removal only for reasons of incapacity or behaviour that renders them unfit to discharge their duties," ICJ has added.

ICJ has called upon the relevant Bulgarian government authorities to ensure that both the institutional and personal independence of judges is upheld and that appropriate measures are taken to enable judges to carry out their function without intimidation of any kind.

It also asks the government to ensure that Judge Todorova enjoys a fair appeals process, in line with international standards, against the decision of the Supreme Judicial Council and that if her appeal is successful, she is reinstated.

The authorities must also protect Judge Todorova from further harassment, ICJ says.

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Tags: Supreme Administrative Court, VAS, Deputy Prime Minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, cooperation and verification mechanism, Justice System and Internal Affairs, monitoring report, European Commission, provocation, Sofia City Court, libel, Bulgarian Judges Association, Interior Minister, VSS, Supreme Judicial Council, dismissed, Miroslava Todorova, judge


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