Bulgaria's Embattled Judiciary Triggers Tent Protests, Constitutional Amendments Talks
A structural reform of the judicial system and the introduction of two-instance proceedings are being discussed as potential constitutional amendments, Bulgarian Justice Minister Margarita Popova said Wednesday.
Popova has decided to open consultations on concrete legislative and constitutional amendments aimed at alleviating the tensions plaguing Bulgaria's judiciary and its managerial and disciplinary body, the Supreme Judicial Council (VSS).
According to her, It is important to reconsider the election process for VSS members with a view to minimize potential political influence over it.
Other questions that mandate discussion are the reasons for existence and the size of the parliamentary quota in VSS, Popova says, adding that the rules for nominating VSS members by the magistrates' community must also be improved.
According to Popova, it is also up for discussion whether Bulgaria needs as much as 28 administrative courts.
"Perhaps it is time to engage in a serious debate about reassessing the number of courts and prosecutor's offices in the judicial system", the Justice Minister suggested.
In her opinion, it is high time that Bulgaria re-examined the necessity of the current three-instance proceedings which imply a longer-than-usual justice process .
Against the backdrop of ongoing debates about the judiciary, Bulgarians have staged a tent protest in front of the Sofia Court House, calling for reforms in the system.
Georgi Drazhev, Chairman of the Anti-Mafia movement, explains that the organization demands the resignations of the VSS members.
"The judicial body has been totally discredited. Its work is assessed in EC reports and through the comments of supervisors, which means that the judiciary has been rated "poor", together with its managerial body, VSS", Drazhev says.
He believes that the withdrawal of the current VSS members will pave the way to reforms.
The protest tent, surrounded by condemnatory posters, is also accompanied by a petition expressing citizens' discontent over "the real estate mafia which enjoys a customized judicial system".
"The change can not be brought about by SMS messages", Drazhev says, commenting on the campaigns launched by the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee and www.bivol.bg which deploy e-mails and short text messages to communicate the widespread social disapproval of Bulgaria's judicial system.
"We subscribe to every initiative that could trigger reforms of the judiciary but we believe that this can not happen through SMS messages but with protests, vocal dissent on the part of the people and street protests", the head of the Anti-mafia movement adds.
He believes that amendments to the Constitution and the Judiciary Act are necessary to put an end to the existing chaos an anarchy.
Drazhev calls for appointing VSS members who enjoy public confidence rather than strong political support.
The protesters have vowed to stay one month in front of the Sofia Court House.
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