On May 30, 2023, the Legal Aid Network participated in a regular session of the Council for the Implementation of the Updated Strategy for Continuing the Judicial Reform.
The subject of discussion at the meeting was legislative proposals to improve the functioning of the Inspectorate at the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) and to avoid the risk of political influence by involving the judicial authorities in the selection of its members.
Legislative changes were also discussed regarding the introduction of restorative justice, developed by judges in a working group formed by the SJC. This discussion provided an opportunity for Georgi Elenkov from the Legal Aid Network to present the work of the informal working group of the Legal Aid Network, engaged in editing the Draft Law on Diversion of Criminal Proceedings from 2016, including updating and clarifying its provisions related to restorative practices.
After the end of the Council’s session, the Legal Aid Network held a meeting with the Minister of Justice, Krum Zarkov, where they presented the monitoring report “Notebook 2023” by the National Network for Children’s Rights (NNCR), with a focus on the “Justice for Children” section of the study.
The area of “Justice for Children” received a higher rating than in previous years (a good 3.52), due to progress on various topics that were previously on the periphery of legislation and the political will for reforms. Through the Draft Law on the National Program for Children (NPC), introduced by a Member of Parliament in October 2022 (https://parliament.bg/bg/bills/ID/164366), steps were taken to fully transpose (implement) Directive 2012/29/EU establishing minimum standards on the rights, support, and protection of victims of crimes. The Draft Law on the Protection of Children from Domestic Violence (DLDV) was approved by the Council of Ministers (CM) and submitted to the National Assembly (NA), envisioning significant improvements in prevention and protection from domestic violence. Another positive change noted in the report is the launch of the program by the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) to pilot the so-called mandatory mediation for certain family disputes, as well as the approved draft laws (in the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Mediation Act) that introduce the concept of a mandatory initial meeting with a mediator for family disputes for the first time.
Minister Zarkov committed to thoroughly familiarize himself with the monitoring report and to assist in including the topic of judicial reform for children on the agenda of the Council for the Implementation of the Updated Strategy for Continuing the Judicial Reform.