On June 23, 2023, within the “Justice” panel of the Annual Meeting of the National Network for Children, the Legal Aid Network (LAN) of the NCD presented its achievements from the past year to volunteers and like-minded individuals. The panel was moderated by Georgi Elenkov (Coordinator of LAN) and Dr. Julia Radanova (Consultant of the Network).
The moderators opened the panel with the news about the amendments to Article 7 of the LAN Statute, which allow experts with higher education, other than legal education, to become members of the Network, provided they have professional experience in topics such as children’s rights, children in contact/conflict with the law, etc.
The biographies of the new 8 LAN members accepted in the last 12 months were presented: lawyer Stoyan Madin, Associate Professor Iva Pushkarova, lawyer Nadezhda Kovacheva, lawyer Diana Radoslavova, lawyer Adela Kachaunova, lawyer Adelina Hadjiyska, Daria Mincheva, and Rositsa Atanasova. With them, the LAN members now amount to a total of 21.
The panel participants were introduced to the strategically initiated cases of the LAN (including the proceedings against Bulgaria before the European Committee of Social Rights concerning issues in the education and care system in early childhood) and the 2 strategic cases won by the Network: 1) compensation awarded to a minor plaintiff – an indirect victim of an illegal criminal accusation; 2) A.S.E against Bulgaria (No. 53891/20) – the major case of domestic violence in which the LAN of the NCD participated as a third-party intervener, and lawyer Natasha Dobreva from LAN represented the victim as a legal representative.
The LAN Coordinator and Consultant discussed the numerous non-strategic cases that the Legal Aid Network encounters almost daily. The following examples were mentioned:
- Discrimination against children with autism by a class teacher.
- Detained underage refugees in Ruse arrest.
- Child taken in Spain.
- Three children accommodated in a crisis center in Shumen.
- A 16-year-old child accommodated in CNSST.
- Discrimination against a child with special educational needs by the management of a school in the capital.
- Case of a child tragically killed in Ruse.
- Case of denied treatment.
- Mediation sessions for mutual consent divorce.
- Appeal against the Ministry of Health’s refusal to provide a substantive response regarding the Health and Social Care Act.
- Parental conflict involving an 8-year-old child, resulting in numerous proceedings between the parents and high traumatization of the child.
- Appeal against summoning a 13-year-old as a witness in a civil case.
- Report of a child at risk in Ivan Vazovo village (the redirection of which to the responsible institutions became the cause of a defamatory campaign and slander against LAN and NCD).
- Lawsuit under the Private Schools Act against a private school due to unjustified refusal to renew a contract.
The following additional strategic activities of the Legal Aid Network of the NCD were presented:
- Participation in 3 expert working groups – to the Directorate-General for Legal Assistance, Ministry of Justice, National Institute of Justice
- Invitation from the Constitutional Court to provide an opinion on the Family Code (repealing a provision allowing Bulgarian children to travel abroad without the consent of the non-Bulgarian parent)
- Numerous opinions and positions (on the Family Code, Child Protection Act, Criminal Procedure Code, etc.)
- Research work – a report on the legal dimensions of parental activism; a report on the legal aspects of child and youth participation at local and national levels; author’s contribution to the monitoring report “Notebook” for 2023
Establishment of a thematic working group within the LAN, developing a new draft Law on diversion from criminal proceedings to initiate reform in juvenile justice in Bulgaria. In the practical part of the panel, the participants divided into three teams, each conducting brainstorming sessions on one of the following topics:
- Involvement of the Legal Aid Network in the NCD’s campaign for providing medical food supplies through the National Health Insurance Fund to all children and families in need.
- New landmark international cases that the LAN could initiate.
- Ideas for the second edition of the legal-discussion forum LexTalks, scheduled for December 2023.
Special attention was given to the first of the three causes – ensuring state provision of medical food supplies. It was presented in detail by the special guest of the panel, Antoaneta Ivanova from the “Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus” Association – Bulgaria, the newly elected Chair of the NCD Board.
For up-to-date information on the cases and causes of the Legal Aid Network of the NCD, please follow the “Justice” section on www.nmd.bg.