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Discussion meeting: Presentation of the Judicial Anti-Corruption Program
 
On June 24, 2003, a discussion meeting, organized by Coalition 2000 and dedicated to debating the draft version of the Judicial Anti-Corruption Program (JACP) was held at the Center for the Study of Democracy.

The meeting was opened by Mr. Sevdalin Bozhikov, Deputy Minister of Justice, and Dr. Maria Yordanova, Director of the CSD Law Program.

Mr. Alexander Stoyanov, Director of Vitosha Research, presented the results of the sociological survey Corruption and Anti-Corruption: the Magistrates' Viewpoint, which was carried out among 454 magistrates from all over the country in the period April-May, 2003. The survey has been conducted within the framework of the Coalition 2000 Corruption Monitoring System and is a unique survey of similar kind among magistrates. It is concentrated on the magistrates' opinions on a wide range of problems concerning the organization and work of the judiciary, the spread of corruption within it, the reasons for arising and the ways for counteracting corruption.

Ms. Nelly Koutzkova, Chair of Sofia District Court and member of the Supreme Judicial Council, presented the first part of the JACP, which contains proposals for reforming the organization and functions of the judiciary and the court administration. She mentioned some of the most significant proposals: the necessity of changes in the constituting and functions of the Supreme Judicial Council; the provisions on the magistrates' legal status, including the problem of whether they should keep their complete immunity or it should be only extended to the steps they undertake in court in the light of the forthcoming amendments of the Constitution which are currently on the agenda; the mechanism for lifting the magistrates' immunity and particularly the Attorney General's one; introducing of terms of office for all the magistrates in managerial positions; establishing of specialized units for counteracting corruption within the structural units of the judiciary. Ms. Koutzkova also introduced two alternative options for structural reforms of the judiciary and underlined that the proposed major structural changes, shall be subject to a wide discussion and probably will arise many critiques.

Dimitar Markov, Project Coordinator at the CSD Law Program, presented the proposals for reforming the substantive and procedural criminal law included in JACP. He underscored that according to the sociological survey data a very large number of the magistrates indicate as a problem in their work the existing imperfections in the substantive and procedural criminal legislation and shared the view of the working group that a radical legislative reform is necessary, including the adoption of entirely new Criminal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure.

The necessity of complete and radical reform in the field of the civil proceedings as well was introduced by Dr. Silvy Chernev, Chair of the Court of Arbitration with the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and leader of the Task Force which had elaborated the respective proposals for reforms. Dr. Chernev enumerated some of the main fields of corruption within the sphere of substantive civil legislation but underlined that the civil proceedings are the focal point for corruption practices. He accentuated the main problems and proposals for reforms concerning this branch of law for example the introduction of the three-instance proceedings, which very often slow down and hinder effective administration of justice; the regulation of subpoenas and legal presentation of evidence; the inefficiency of collateral and enforcement proceedings, which are not able to defend the interests of natural and legal persons; the scarce legislative regulation of the alternative dispute resolution means.

The proposals for reforming the administrative substantive and procedural law and the necessity of elaborating a Code of Administrative Procedure were presented in brief by Dr. Maria Yordanova and Ms. Anna Bankova, Prosecutor at the Supreme Administrative Prosecution Office.

Mr. Bozhikov expressed support for a considerable part of the proposals and explained that a draft version of a Code of Administrative Procedure is elaborated and will be discussed. It is expected that the Code will be ready by the end of 2004. He informed the participants that drafts of new Codes of Criminal and Civil Procedure are also being prepared thus sharing the opinion of Dr. Chernev that the procedural legislation is the basis of a quick and efficient administration of justice and what is needed is detailed concept for proceedings reform instead of ad hoc amendments, which often had reverse effect.

Mr. Tsoni Tsonev, Chair of the Supreme Administrative Prosecution Office, Mr. Borislav Belazelkov, Justice, Supreme Court of Cassation, Ms. Mila Georgieva and Mr. Assen Arsov, Prosecutors at the Supreme Prosecution Office of Cassation, Ms. Tatiana Doncheva, MP, Coalition for Bulgaria, representatives of UNDP, the Delegation of the European Commission to Bulgaria, ABA/CEELI, USAID, representatives of the executive and NGOs, experts, and journalists also took part in the discussions.

The meeting was closed by Dr. Maria Yordanova, who thanked the participants and announced that any proposals, notes, opinions and recommendations for improving the JACP shall be submitted to the Task Forces not later than July 7, 2003 in order to be taken into consideration in elaboration of the final version of the JACP.

Developing Judicial Anti-Corruption Program
Report: Corruption and Anti-Corruption: the Magistrates' Viewpoint
 
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