POSITION: The refusal of the Prosecutor General to authorize a transfer of the prisoner Jock Palfreeman in Australia is puzzling

BHC addresses a letter to Sotir Tzatzarov, in which the organization expresses surprise by the arbitrary motives of the refusal and suspicion about undue external influences on the decision 


In its letter, BHC notes that the refusal of the Prosecutor General to authorize a transfer of the prisoner Palfreeman, published in a news release on the website of the Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Bulgaria, is based on the fact that he has served a short term of his sentence, as well as on the fact that he has committed numerous disciplinary violations while serving his sentence, for which he has been subject to sanction. However, these motives, even if based on true facts immaterial to the conditions for a transfer according to Art. 3 of the European Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, which should serve as an international legal basis of the transfer, insofar as it is binding for both Bulgaria and Australia. Even more irrelevant is the conclusion made in the news release - that for the above reasons the aims of the punishment are not achieved. Such a conclusion in itself reveals a serious misunderstanding of the object and purpose of this international treaty. Transfer of sentenced persons shall not be realized for them to be rewarded or punished for their behavior, much less it is dependent in any way on whether the purpose of a punishment is achieved. And this is obvious given the fact that a transferred prisoner is sent to his/her home country to continue to serve the sentence. It would be very difficult to justify that the conditions for rehabilitation of an imprisoned person in Australia would be less favorable than those in Bulgaria.

Transfer of sentenced persons is directly related to the exercise of a fundamental human right - the right to family life. This right is guaranteed by the international human rights law, including Art. 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. A number of international standards for the treatment of prisoners, including the European Prison Rules and the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, require that they be placed near their close relatives and their families, so that they are able to maintain contacts as close as possible with them. This is also the requirement of the Bulgarian Law on the Execution of Sentences. Similar provisions exist in the national laws of many other countries. The good penitentiary practice sets as one of the conditions for achieving the purposes of punishment facilitation as much as possible of the contacts of the prisoner with his/her family and close relatives. This is a basic factor in the rehabilitation of a prisoner.

According to BHC, the apparent arbitrariness in justifying the refusal of the transfer causes even more suspicion in view of the recent statement of the MP from the ruling coalition, Mr. Hristo Monov, whose son was killed in December 2007, for which Jock Palfreeman was subsequently convicted. In the Bulgaria Today’s daily of May 9, 2013, Mr. Monov said: "I am at an electable position, and after the vote I will do my best so that the agreement with Australia will not be signed and Palfreeman will not be moved there and then pardoned." BHC expresses its serious concern about the possibility of the refused transfer to have come as a result of such undue influence.

In its letter, BHC asks the Prosecutor General to present more convincing reasons for the refusal as well as the relevant documents in the file. If there are no more convincing reasons, the organization expects from the Prosecutor General to revise his decision as soon as possible.