Declaration of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee

| Obektiv,

The Supreme Judicial Council's Decision on Gen. Pengezov is Outrageous

Sofia, May 17, 2009

The complaints against Gen. Veselin Pengezov's election as head of the Sofia Court of Appeals (SCA), filed by his rivals Irina Petrova and Daniela Atanasova, are sufficiently grounded to be considered by the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC).

This statement was made by Yonko Grozev of the Liberal Strategies Center at a press conference at which all non-governmental human rights organizations in Bulgaria defined the Supreme Judicial Council's decision as „outrageous“, and severely criticized the Council's personnel selection policy.

Earlier, SAC and the Union of Bulgarian Legal Experts expressed in open letters their indignation with Pengezov's appointment.

Human rights defenders claim that, in a serious breach of law, SJC has not conducted a real assessment of the candidates. According to them, the judicial council systematically gives the same marks to magistrates with obviously different qualities, thus exercising arbitrariness in the selection of managers. Grozev adds that council's decision is not accompanied by justification, and that is unlawful.

The same arguments are also stated in the complaints filed by Irina Petrova and Daniela Atanasova, which SAC will review on June 1. Atanasova claims that the SJC decision is based on untrue and arbitrary subjective grounds. Petrova states that in selecting Pengezov, the judicial council has not taken into account the fact that disciplinary proceedings have been initiated against him "for intervention in a case to be ruled on by SCA“. According to her, despite the fact that the case was terminated due to the expiration of the limitation period, it couldn’t be said that Pengezov's actions were "upholding the reputation of the judiciary“.

Yonko Grozev believes that by its refusal to check the complaints against the newly elected SCA head the judicial council sends a message to the magistrates: "Don't even think about sending signals. Dog does not eat dog.” Human rights defenders are also outraged by SJC's attempts to stifle the publicity with regard to the nominations, the assessments and the debates surrounding the selection.

Bulgarian Helsinki Committee chairperson, Krasimir Kanev, says that the SJC decision is „outrageous and will imminently be included in the next EU report on Bulgaria“. Georgitsa Petkova of Bulgarian Lawyers for Human Rights comments that SJC is turning from a judiciary management body into a politicized court management body.

The chair of the Union of Jurists, Yosif Geron, hints that the termination of the UDF registration case was tied to the selection of appropriate judiciary managers. The organizations called the judicial council to put an end to the practice of "unprincipled and biased appointments in the judiciary".