POSITION STATEMENT of Bulgarian Helsinki Committee on the appointment of Danail Kirilov for Minister of Justice of Bulgaria

On Thursday morning Boyko Borisov, prime minister of Bulgaria, nominated Danail Kirilov, the acting chair of the parliamentary commission on legal affairs, for a minister of justice. This nomination has been welcomed by United Patriots – the coalition partner of the ruling party of GERB and themselves a coalition of three ultranationalist/ fascist parties. Earlier today Mr. Kirilov took the oath as minister of justice.

The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee expresses concern over this appointment. For the time that he was chair of the commission on legal affairs Danail Kirilov contributed to weakening the rule of law and undermining civil rights and liberties in Bulgaria with a long-term impact.

In 2018 Kirilov was the main advocate of now enforced amendments in Administrative Procedural Code that limited access to court and opportunities for effectively challenging administrative acts. The legal amendments, that Kirilov lobbied for, introduced unduly high court fees for cassation, introduced proceedings before only one judicial instance for a broad scope of key spheres of governance, and declared all hearings private unless a public hearing is explicitly requested from the parties, the Prosecutor’s Office or the judge on her discretion. The latter is especially troubling in the context of the recent public real estate scandals of alleged white-collar corruption within the ruling party GERB.

Danail Kirilov was either an advocate or he himself sponsored a wide range of other bills introducing many controversial amendments – in the anti-corruption law, in the Privatization Act, and in the law regulating the judicial branch that was adopted in a lightning-fast manner without public consultations. As a chair of the Legal affairs commission in the parliament, Danail Kirilov either permitted or actively committed violations of the rules for proposals for legislative amendments. With his actions, he undermined the separation of powers and sent a clear message to the judicial branch that it is supposed to work for the ruling party.

The foregoing tosses a shadow of doubt on whether civil rights and liberties, as well as public interest, are the guiding principles of Danail Kirilov’s work as a member of the parliament. The same shadow they toss over his future work as justice minister.

Bulgarian Helsinki Committee believes that the selection of a new minister of justice must be careful and to take into account the public confidence in the person that will hold this position. We believe that Mr. Kirilov does not enjoy such public confidence in the Bulgarian civil society.

Adela Katchaounova, attorney-at-law,
Director of the Legal Program of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee