Bulgaria: Judicial Independence Under Attack?

Bulgaria’s Supreme Administrative Court upheld the decision of the Supreme Judicial Council to dismiss Miroslava Todorova, chair of the Bulgarian Judges Association and judge at the Sofia City Court. She was dismissed July 12 by the Supreme Judicial Council. 

Todorova was accused of unreasonable delays in court proceedings, seen by some as reluctance to prosecute organized crime figures. The Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov went as far as to accuse her of working for the mafia, prompting Todorova to sue him for libel.

At the same time, the July report by the European Commission points out that delays by some judges are tolerated, while others are not. Todorova is a vocal critic of Tsvetanov and the council, inviting questions about the motives for her prosecution.

The case against Todorova has raised concerns about Bulgaria’s effort to make its judiciary independent of political and other influences. Tsvetanov’s attacks on Todorova are an example of the ongoing strife between the judiciary and law enforcement, each accusing the other of incompetence, ties to the underworld, and Bulgaria’s failure to achieve reforms set by the European Union. The EU has harshly criticized Bulgaria for the failure to ensure the independence of the judiciary.

Todorova had hoped the council’s decision to dismiss her would be overturned because otherwise all the cases she is handling will need to start from scratch.

Todorova enjoys the support of other judges, who are demanding the dismissal of the council, as well as the support of the Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev.