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Transparency of Administrative Justice
March 2020 – March 2022
Financed by America for Bulgaria Foundation

The America for Bulgaria Foundation assists in strengthening a vibrant market economy and the institutions of democratic society in Bulgaria, helping the country to realize its full potential as a successful, modern European nation. The America for Bulgaria Foundation seeks to enhance the longstanding legacy of goodwill and friendship between the American and Bulgarian people and through many of its programs, to promote the US – Bulgaria people-to-people contacts and exchange of ideas and resources. The Foundation represents the generous face of the American people and embodies the highest standards of US ethical conduct, transparency, and core values.

Support for the Access to Information Programme is provided by the America for Bulgaria Foundation. The statements and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the Access to Information Programme and do not necessarily reflect the views of the America for Bulgaria Foundation or its affiliates.

The aim of the project is through legal analysis, preparation of a methodology with the participation of all stakeholders, assessment of the websites of the administrative courts and the Supreme Administrative Courts, legal assistance in cases of access to information with potential to improve the business environment and information campaign tp contribute for:

  • More consistent access to information practices by the administrative courts and the SAC;
  • Recommendations for improvement of transparency and accountability of the judiciary;
  • Increased public awareness on the right of access to information and how to exercise it;
  • Enhanced proactive transparency of 28 administrative courts and the SAC;
  • Increased public trust in the work of the administrative courts;
  • Increased recognition of Access to Information Programme as Transparency Advice Center.

The transparency of judiciary guarantees both the fundamental right to fair trial and the public trust in courts, which is essential for a democratic society. Administrative courts are important as they consider disputes where citizens and companies complain of unlawful decisions or conduct of public bodies. The transparency of administrative courts and of the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) is of value for the right to information, the proper functioning of administrative judiciary and trust in it. Based on AIP’s 23 years of experience in the freedom of information area, the following needs and risk have been identified:

  • Need for enhanced judicial transparency;
  • Need for transparency monitoring and evaluation;
  • Risk of unstable court practices;
  • Need for public awareness and education in the area of access to information;
  • Need for timely and effective communication of monitoring results, court decisions, and successful access to information cases;

AIP will address the identified problem by:

  • Reviewing and analyzing the legal framework setting forth obligations for active publication and developing a web-based methodology for assessment of the websites of the 28 administrative courts and the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC);
  • Presenting and discussing the methodology for assessment of administrative courts’ websites with stakeholders at 3 round tables. Conducting interviews and consultations with various civil society representatives, including with the help of AIP’s 27 coordinators in all regions;
  • Assessing the websites of the 28 administrative courts and the SAC;
  • Preparing the “Access to Information in the Judiciary” report with recommendations which will be discussed at a nation-wideconference;
  • Providing legal aid to citizens and organizations in access to information cases with the potential to reveal corruption and wrongdoings, to increase government accountability and to improve the conditions for business and investment in Bulgaria;
  • Carrying out raising awareness campaigns, trainings and a higher education course to encourage the active exercise of the right to information;
  • Effectively communicating all the aforementioned activities, maintaining and strengthening national and international networks, such as AIP’s coordinators network and the international Freedom of Information Advocates Network (FOIAnet).

Results:

  • Information on the hundreds of cases in which AIP's legal team provided legal aid throughout the period of the project's implementation period can be found in the Cases section on AIP's website.
  • Information on access to information litigation carried out with the help of AIP's legal team during the project's implementation period can be found in the Litigation section on AIP's website.
  • As part of the process of identification of the obligations for active publication of public information by the administrative courts, attorney-at-law Kiril Terziiski assembled an analysis published in AIP's Monthly e-Newsletter in August 2020:

Kinds of information created and held by courts (Text in Bulgarian)

In relation to the systematization of the categories of information that is mandatory for publication by the courts, the AIP prepared a brief analysis of case law (in AIP-supported cases) against courts' refusals to provide access to information. Over the years, AIP's legal team has provided legal assistance in six lawsuits against court refusals to provide access to public information. Although the number of these lawsuits is not large, the review of court decisions on them provides an opportunity to gain an idea on the kinds of information created and held by the courts, and on the procedure for gaining access to the information.

  • In the process of development of a web-based methodology for assessment of the websites of the 28 administrative courts and the Supreme Administrative Court, structured interviews were prepared by AIP's legal team and conducted with representatives of administrative courts by AIP's country-wide network of 27 journalists.

Margarita Slavova, President of Administrative court - Silistra: "In the last years refusals to access to information requests are not typical" (Text in Bulgarian)

An interview with the chairperson of the Administrative court - Silistra was conducted by AIP's coordinator in Silistra Kalina Grancharova for the Monthly e-Newsletter of the AIP in February 2021.

  • AIP conducted its first Audit on Administrative Courts' websites and Active Transparency Rating

Active Transparency Rating of Administrative Courts 2021

The first Audit on transparency of administrative courts was performed within the period July 23 – August 23, 2021 by three researchers from the AIP legal team with the review and assessment of the web sites of the 28 regional administrative courts and the Supreme Administrative Court. The aim of the audit is to evaluate how the courts within the administrative justice system in Bulgaria fulfill their obligations for proactive disclosure of information online and how they follow legal regulations regarding transparency and accountability.

  • As part of the project's goals - to raise awareness of citizens' right to access information - the AIP held two courses for university students, thanks to the support of the America for Bulgaria Foundation and thanks to AIP's long-standing partnership with New Bulgarian University.

5th Alumni Access to Information Class

On December 18, 2020, the Access to Information Programme presented certificates to 10 students from the programme “Public Communications and Information Sciences” at the New Bulgarian University for successfully passing the practical course “Access to Information Public Communications.” The AIP delivers the course in a fifth consecutive year, encompassing the period November – December 2020. AIP Executive Director Dr Gergana Jouleva and the lawyers from AIP legal team Kiril Terziiski, Stephan Anguelov and Alexander Kashumov were the course lecturers.

6th Alumni Access to Information Class

On December 17, 2021, the Access to Information Programme presented certificates to 24 students from professional program “Public Communications and Information Sciences” at the New Bulgarian University for successfully passing the practical course “Access to Information Public Communications.” The AIP delivered the course for a sifth consecutive year - and for a second year online. This year's course was held in November – December 2021 with a record number of 24 students successfully finished the course. Among them were 23 students from New Bulgarian University's BA programmes Journalism and Public Relations, as well as one Sports Journalism student from the National Sports Academy. Lecturers were AIP's executive director Gergana Jouleva, and the lawyers from AIP legal team Kiril Terziiski, Stephan Anguelov and Alexander Kashumov.

 

 


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18.05.2020 • © 1999 Copyright by Interia & AIP