‘Judicial reform is not something abstract. One of its main goals is real and effective access to justice for the socially vulnerable, victims and survivors of domestic violence.’
With these words Deputy Minister of Justice Emil Dechev opened a forum on ‘Legal Aid to Victims of Domestic Violence and Coordination of Institutions in the Implementation of their Protection’ in Plovdiv, organized by the National Legal Aid Bureau (NLAB) and the Plovdiv Bar Association.
The event was attended by the Mayor of the city Zdravko Dimitrov, the Deputy Chairperson of the Supreme Court of Cassation Mimi Furnadzhieva, the Deputy Ombudsman Elena Cherneva, the former Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev, the National Coordinator for Domestic Violence from the State Aid Agency Zornitsa Shumanova, lawyers, magistrates and Roma mediators, representatives of NGOs, etc.
The Chairperson of the National Legal Aid Bureau, Natalia Ilieva, presented the latest statistics on the Bureau's project funded by the Norwegian Financial Mechanism 2014—2021. The mobile teams of a lawyer and a Roma mediator have provided 586 legal consultations on domestic violence in the last two and a half years in Veliko Tarnovo, Stara Zagora and Varna districts. 7457 is the total number of consultations provided to people living below the poverty line in remote settlements and Roma neighbourhoods in the three districts.
Deputy Minister Dechev reminded that in March this year the National Legal Aid Bureau, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Interior and the country's Bar Councils signed a Memorandum of Cooperation and Partnership for the timely protection of victims of domestic violence.
He highlighted the importance of the adoption of the amendments to the Protection from Domestic Violence Act, the core of which is the introduction of coordination at the highest level between institutions on this painful topic.
Mimi Furnadzhieva, Deputy Chairperson of the Supreme Court of Cassation, said that the law should not be an instruction, there should be no ambiguity in it.
Natalia Ilieva, the chairperson of the National Legal Aid Bureau, pointed out that the role of municipalities and health care institutions is extremely important in the coordination between institutions, for example in relation to assistance for temporary accommodation in municipal housing, counselling on the possibilities of social assistance and health care for victims of domestic violence.
On the need for a national register on domestic violence, Deputy Ombudsman Elena Cherneva stated that this problem often remains within the family. ‘The state has no official statistics. We only know that within the last 3 years about 60 women have lost their lives due to domestic violence.’
Zornitsa Shumanova, the national coordinator from the Ministry of Interior, confirmed that the number of immediate protection orders issued to victims has been growing in recent years — 3,057 in 2020, 3,244 in 2021, 3,654 in 2022 and 1,590 by May of this year.