For a more effective judiciary system - Bulgarian judges on a placement at the European Court of Human Rights

20-12-2021 11:55

„It's an honor to work at an international institution such as the European Court of Human Righsts. I feel very special to be part of the Court.“ This is what Judge Georgi Videv says as he's been on a placement at the Court since April 2021. 

In order to increase the professional capacity of Bulgarian judges, the Supreme Judicial Court is sending judges to Strasbourg. The initiative is part of a project supported by the Norwegian Financial Mechanism and has already become a tradition. So far 9 judges have spent each 1 year the the European Court and worked on specific cases. 9 more are about to follow on this professional adventure. One of them is now in Strasbourg and has accepted our invitation for a virtual meeting.

The European Court of Human Rights is an institution with more than 60 years of work and 47 member states. It resides in the French city of Strasbourg. Each member is represented by 1 judge with a mandate of 9 years. For Bulgaria 'till 2024 this is Judge Yonko Grozev. In 2019 against Bulgaria are filed 750 complaints, while in 2020 - 608.

Georgi Videv has been working as a judge since 2007 - ever since the establishment of the Administrative Courts in Bulgaria. He is currently Administrative Judge in the city of Pazardzhik. He has already been for one year in Strasbourg through the European Network for Judicial Training so he is not new to the place. Nevertheless, he is back with enthusiasm and ready for work: "The are a total of 10 international courts, but this is the only one where a person can file a complaint against his own country."

For a more effective judiciary system - this one of the priorities of the Ministry of Justice and the Supreme Judicial Council. The main results of the placements are better implementation of the European standards in the national law. "The long-term aim is to reduce the number of complaints filed against Bulgaria. It is completely normal national judges to be able to solve issues and help for specific cases," says Judge Videv and shares an example with a topic that has been popular in Bulgaria - the living conditions in prisons. "After its first decision on such case, the Court establishes a norm, that helps Bulgarian judges setting a minimum of 4 square meters of individual living space. A year later the Court allows for a smaller space in case common premises are available to the inmates which changes the judiciary practice on such cases."

The Court in Strasbourg hosts 900 employees, most of whom are lawyers. The placement begins with a training and Judge Videv joins the Bulgarian National Division where files against Bulgaria are under consideration. This is the first stage of work - deciding if the complaint is admissible and therefore it will be further examined by a panel of judges. "Thousands complaints are sent to the Court but at least 95% are denied as inadmissible. The cases are quite diverse since the system is easily accessible and free of charge. What's more - it is independent and has a very good reputation."

The Covid pandemic brings some changes to the working environment. At the start of his placement, Judge Videv works from his home and goes to the office only for documents under specific cases. Two months later, employees spend 3 days at the office and 2 days working from home. Another challenge is setting a new life together with his family. Despite these issues, the Bulgarian Judge also share some of the many positive aspects: "There is an international spirit in the office. This really brings change to the way one works. One feels part of a professional team of lawyers and the exchange of experience flows in both ways."

To be up-to-date with the current outcomes of the work at the European Court of Human Rights is an important aspect of the law practice of every judge. For Georgi Videv there is one more task - when he gets back home he will share his experience and lessons learnt with his colleagues thus multiplying the effect from his placement.

In the beginning of 2022 a new opportunity will be made available for placements at the Registration Unit of the European Court of Human Rights as well as in the Department for the Execution of Judgments. We look forward to welcome the new experts on placement.