MEDEL (Magistrats européens pour la démocratie et les libertés) wishes to express its deep concern on the Bill amending and supplementing the Judiciary Act passed at first hearing by the Bulgarian Parliament.
In its letter dated 25 July 2016 to the Speaker of Bulgarian Parliament, MEDEL stated the reasons against the introduction of the requirement for magistrates (judges and prosecutors) to declare their membership to professional organisations. Such requirement unreasonably limits their right to free association as guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
MEDEL now learned that the Bill just passed at first hearing introduces further limitations in the same vein, imposing even more severe restrictions on Bulgarian judges and prosecutors who, should the Bill become law, will have a legal obligation to declare to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) their membership of any such professional bodies or organisations within a period of one month from the date from which the amendments become effective.
The introduction of further restrictions and bans on magistrates and their organisations will prohibit both judges and prosecutors from sitting on the governing bodies of associations of other legal professions and from receiving financing from ‘foreign States and persons’ for the purpose of conducting research and acting in the capacity as tutors and trainers. The draft law also introduces an express provision according to which professional organisations of magistrates should cover their running costs and finance their activities solely from collected membership fees.
The proposed prohibitions are a threat to the existence and future of professional judicial associations, and will severely curtail the possibilities for Bulgarian magistrates to act together with a view to furthering their professional development, standing up for their rights and upholding the rule of law in Bulgaria.
MEDEL underlines that restrictions and limitations to the right of professional associations of judges and prosecutors are contrary to the principles of democracy in Europe (see Council of Europe Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)12 on judges: independence, efficiency and responsibilities – 25. Judges should be free to form and join professional organisations whose objectives are to safeguard their independence, protect their interests and promote the rule of law).
MEDEL alerts European institutions on the legislative initiative undertaken and calls to the Bulgarian authorities to ensure that the legislative amendments proposed by the Bill amending and supplementing the Judiciary Act are reversed or withdrawn.
25h July 2017