Seven EU Ambassadors Raise Concerns over Court Resignation Demands
The ambassadors of seven EU member states have urged Bulgarian magistrates to consider calls of judges at the Sofia City Court demanding top-level resignations.
According to Dnevnik.bg, an open letter has been signed by the envoys of Austria (Roland Hauser), Belgium (Anick Van Calster), Denmark (Christian Konigsfeldt), the UK (Jonathan Allen), the Netherlands (Tom Van Oorschot), Finland (Harri Salmi) and France (Xavier Lapeyre de Cabanes).
They are referring to a demand signed by fifteen judges, who insist that Sofia City Court Chair Vladimira Yaneva and her deputies resign, claiming a flawed system for random distribution of judicial cases has cast a shadow of doubt on their credibility.
Earlier in December France's Ambassador to Bulgaria Xavier Lapeyre de Cabanes told private national channel bTV there are "rotten apples" in the judiciary and alleged that "a theft" of a Bulgarian branch of a French company specializing in the production and trade of wine and vodka was being plotted through a decision of a judge at the Sofia City Court, Rumyana Chenalova. The latter could have been assigned the case on purpose, the ambassador alleged. The three protesting judges wrote their statement the week after.
The Supreme Judicial Council (VSS) heard both Chenalova and the Sofia City Court chairperson and her deputies last week.
The system for random distribution of cases topped the agenda of the latter hearing, with the VSS announcing afterwards it would take steps toward creating a new software product to carry out the distribution
In the seven diplomats' words, "when a group of respectable professionals voice concern and raise such questions, they deserve special attention and a thorough response."
The ambassadors point out that other magistrates also joined the call of their Sofia City Court colleagues, with the Bulgarian Judges Association also backing the move.
"The sheer fact that judges raised these questions benefits the Bulgarian judicial system and society," the letter goes on, drawing a parallel between their actions and the anti-government protests which shook Bulgaria in 2013.
At the same time the issue "is not just a domestic affair," since Bulgaria has taken a commitment to reaching "the highest standards in justice and rule of law.
Last week's judicial reform strategy which was approved by the Bulgarian government on December 17 is described as a "positive development", which however also requires that MPs show responsibility while reading the texts.
The letter opines "an open and democratic society", stressing it needs "independent institutions" such as a judicial system capable of taking appropriate action.
"Bulgarians need a judicial system in which there is trust," the seven ambassadors conclude.
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