Report about Bulgarian citizens and companies who
were involved in oil trade with Iraqi companies or their representatives
during the Saddam regime
Zoya Dimitrova vs. the President
First Instance – administrative court case No 1380/2004
Sofia City Court
Development at a First Instance Court:
The court also found that the appeal was justified on merits. The decision quoted Recommendation (2002)2 of the Committee of Ministers to the Member states, which it encouraged broad access to official documents, allowed the public to have an adequate view of, and to form a critical opinion on, the state of the society in which they lived and on the authorities that governed them. The Recommendation also encouraged informed participation of the public on matters of common interest. The Judgement of the Sofia City Court also referred to a decision of the Constitutional Court of Bulgaria from 1996. It elaborated the right of every citizen under Art. 41 of the Constitution to seek and obtain information “guaranteed by the obligation of public authorities to impart it”.
The court pointed out that the information request of Zoya Dimitrova met the requirements of Art. 24 and Art. 25 of APIA: it was filed in written and contained all necessary requisites. Besides, when filing the request, the plaintiff had explicitly mentioned, that if the report had contained any legally classified parts, she would have liked to receive partial access.
The refusal letter of the Head of the President administration was a legal statement and should comply with some requirement of the Administrative procedures act. The Act determines some requisites of the refusal, without which it should be considered unlawful.
The letter of the President administration lacked any proof why the requested information was secret, nor did it refer to any legal grounds for its classification. The refusal did not even specify whether the requested information was classified as state or official secret under the Protection of Classified Information Act (PCIA). The preparation of the report by the National Investigation Services in cooperation with the National Security Services did not automatically make the information confidential, nor did it remove the obligation of the public authority (Head of the President administration) to provide criteria and reasons for classifying the requested information.
The refusal appealed by Zoya Dimitrova lacked even a statement that the requested information was a state secret. This fact obstructed the court from exercising effective judicial control over the lawfulness of the refusal and the implementation of APIA. The refusal did not refer to the provisions of PCIA.
In view of the above arguments, the Sofia City Court rules that the appealed refusal should be reversed, because it has been issued in breach of the administrative provisions of APIA.
Developments at a Second Instance Court:
First, access to information refusals of the
Head of President's Administration are liable to appeal.
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