Position of the Justice for All Initiative on the State of Emergency in the Country
One month has passed since the state of emergency and the restrictive measures and legal changes that have been introduced to it affected the civil rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. We have waited long enough for our assessment.
After the emergency situation was extended for another month we feel obliged to express our current position:
- Undoubtedly, we are living in a difficult time and a very difficult situation on a global scale, in which humanity is facing a huge challenge. We appreciate the work of all our medics and the people who are on the front line in the fight against the new virus. We welcome the efforts of the National Operational Headquarters and all experts in dealing with the spread of the infection, saving lives and limiting damage. We do not feel competent and will not evaluate the medical measures implemented under the Health Act and the Special Emergency Law. We hope these are the right measures!
- However, we cannot take a stance on the measures that disproportionately affect the fundamental and constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms of citizens! Here, in the first place, we are worried by the almost uncontrolled ability of the Ministry of Interior, given by the law, to monitor the traffic data of an unlimited number of Bulgarian citizens, in the absence of real-time judicial control. The measure is being implemented by the police without a real opportunity to verify the stated reason for tracking mobile phones and devices. The procedure by which subsequent judicial control can be exercised remains completely unclear, and this directly threatens fundamental rights and enables total virtual control over our lives. This categorically cannot be accepted as normal. A disproportionate measure is also the possibility of initiating criminal proceedings for opinion, stated in the media or social networks under conditions of an epidemic. This seriously jeopardizes freedom of expression and is contrary to all the fundamental values and rights of the EU! Proposals from MPs are being heard and draft laws are being introduced to restrict freedom of speech and the right to opinion. This is absolutely unacceptable and we will resist!
- Most troubling to us, as an organization for the protection of the rule of law, justice and equality before the law, is the actual closure of two of the three authorities in a democratic state with parliamentary rule. You can't stop the work of the judicial system for two months and close the courts in a state governed by the rule of law! This is the hypothesis of the so-called "deferred justice". But with the extension of the state of emergency for two months this will soon become a denial of justice, which is unacceptable! There is no logical explanation as to why the police, prosecutors, municipalities and state institutions work, and the courts are closed. This implies a lack of effective (timely) control over the activities of law enforcement, repressive bodies and institutions, and presents a clear possibility of a dangerous violation of fundamental rights and freedoms has been opened! The National Assembly does not work either, except for the measures in the State Emergency Act and the budget update. It is unacceptable that MPs have transferred their powers to the executive power, which completely invalidates the nature and role of the parliamentary republic. In addition, the executive body and the Attorney General are freed from parliamentary scrutiny, which is especially dangerous in a state of emergency!
- The Attorney General has seized the functions and rights of the other two authorities and is, in effect, acting as a second Prime Minister, but with far greater powers as he has the ability to coerce and restrict rights in pain of criminal repression. This repression is already being implemented with great force and without real judicial control. Citizens are held criminally liable, arrested and then released against huge and disproportionate financial guarantees for their personal opinions, media appearances and even social media posts. This is done on the basis of an archaic and completely inapplicable text in the Criminal Code (Art. 326), concerning terrorist acts and false reporting. In practice, everyone is threatened if they exercise the freedom of speech, perhaps, the purpose is precisely to silence and punish people with different opinions and a free voice. However, this is called dictatorship, not democracy, and it has been practiced successfully in times gone by. Apart from that, there are attorneys, kept in detention, accused of participating in an organized criminal group for serving their clients; charges are brought, accounts are closed and large-scale assets are forfeited, without effective judicial review; evidence and data are being announced from pending court proceedings, in breach of investigative secrecy, in order to make suggestions of crimes committed by certain persons, which grossly violates the presumption of innocence and attempts are made to impose "media justice" - something inadmissible in the rule of law!
- The Attorney General and the Justice Minister have obviously joined forces in an acute and dangerous attack on the court. Using a secret audit report on security gaps in the system of accidental distribution of cases, they selectively export unverified facts and verbal allegations to the public domain in order to cause a scandal in the judicial system. The Attorney General made inadmissible suggestions, citing Judge Lozan Panov, the president of the SCC and three other members of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) panel as "suspects". He forgets the fact that the system in question was introduced by the previous panel and this also happened with the consent of the former Attorney General. The suspicion that this "active measure" is an attempt to control the SCC as the only important court still uncontrolled by the prosecutor's lobby is growing, and this goes through the removal of Mr. Lozan Panov as its chairman. What happened at the SJC this week at a private meeting on the audit report is the strongest evidence that a dangerous theatre is being played to the public, and the rifle is ready to fire into the third action behind the curtains! So, with the courts closed, there is a real danger that, after opening them, the red prosecutor's cloak will enter through the front door and to head straight to the Judge Bank, which will be the end of both democracy, the rule of law, and our personal rights to a great extent!
- It is noteworthy that a substantial amount of money was allocated to support the banking sector through the State Bulgarian Development Bank (BDB), allegedly to support small and medium-sized businesses, without any subsequent scrutiny. It turned out to be a convenient alibi for financing dubious companies and serving the financial interests of big business and corpulent oligarchs!
In the light of the above, we are gravely concerned about what is happening with law, parliamentarism and the independence of the court and the judiciary. We will inform the EC Delegation in Bulgaria and also insist:
- The National Assembly to immediately resume its work and begin exercising parliamentary scrutiny, first of all, hearing the Prime Minister and the Ministers of the Interior and Justice on guarantees for abiding the inalienable constitutional rights of citizens.
- The National Assembly to hear the Prosecutor General on the measures and actions of the Prosecutor's Office implementing the Criminal Code in view of the imposed restrictive measures and those of the Emergency Act.
-The National Assembly to give an authentic interpretation of the provision of Art. 326 of the Criminal Code, in view of the actual meaning put into it by the legislator. To Indicate whether the same is true and in what circumstances in the current situation and in view of the provisions of the Special Emergency Law.
-Request a report on all pre-trial proceedings instituted by the competent prosecutor's offices for the period of emergency and the measures imposed!
-To amend the Emergency Law by introducing ongoing judicial review of measures related to the collection of traffic data and mobile tracking.
- After Prime Minister Borisov has demanded the resignation of the entire BD and the CEO of BDB for the scandalous credit, the Council of Ministers should formally refer to the Prosecutor General for suspicious fund spending of BDB for the benefit of private entities. To request a check on the availability of data and a legitimate reason for instituting pre-trial proceedings against officials from the Governing Board and the Chief Executive of the State Bank.
Following the end of the state of emergency - in the framework of the constitutional consultation with the President and through a civil constitutional debate, the Justice for All Initiative will propose a full reassessment of the Attorney General's role, status and powers in the rule of law and democracy, decentralization of the Prosecutor's Office and substantial extension of parliamentary control over the work of the Prosecutor's Office as a body carrying out the state criminal policy.
"Ignoring the law in a situation that we think imposes it, leads to the fact that the same law, in the future, will be permanently and universally violated ".
Guy Julius Caesar, proven in his time!