Middlesex University

Posts by authors affiliated with Middlesex University

18 October 2023

At a Snail’s Pace

By 1 April 2018, member states had to transpose an EU Directive on ‘the strengthening of certain aspects of the presumption of innocence and of the right to be present at the trial in criminal proceedings’. Bulgaria has not fully transposed it to this day, and consistently undermines it. Now, finally, the Commission has launched infringement proceecings. Preceding the announcement, the Commission rejected Rasosveta Vassileva's reasoned complaints on the same issue, as late as 2022. Her odyssey is a concerning tale on how EU institutions handle citizen alerts.

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13 June 2023

Bulgaria’s Mafia State and the Failure of the CVM

Recent events in Bulgaria have brought the true extent of its rule of law decay to the fore. The wars between the highest-ranking prosecutors in the country, public testimonies by participants in crime syndicates implicating senior magistrates and politicians, and the brutal murders of potential witnesses against organized crime demonstrate that the line between organized crime, the judiciary, and the political apparatus is increasingly difficult to draw. In this post, I argue that the current escalation of Bulgaria’s rule of law crisis lays bare the European Commission’s continued mismanagement of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM).

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05 May 2023
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The UK vs the ECtHR

In recent months, the UK government has tabled two Bills - the Bill of Rights Bill and the Illegal Migration Bill - before Parliament which would have the consequence - and almost certainly have the intention - of setting the UK on a collision course with the Council of Europe, and especially the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). This post details how these Bills serve to undermine the UK’s obligations under the ECHR and explains their significance within the larger debate surrounding the UK’s possible withdrawal from the Convention. It places this debate in the context of the rarely-convened Council of Europe summit of heads of state and government in Reykjavik in May 2023, whose ambitious agenda is to protect the ‘common heritage’ of respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law in the face of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and other existential threats.

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31 January 2023
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Adapt or Die?

The year 2022 will be remembered as one of ‘terrible violence and seismic change in Europe’, in the words of the High Level Reflection Group established by the Council of Europe to consider the organisation’s future. The Council of Europe has issued a public call for ideas, inviting input from international organisations, national human rights institutions, civil society organisations, academics, human rights defenders and others. The deadline for submissions is imminent – 20 February – and the need for radical thinking has never been greater.

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18 August 2022

Extradition to Russia from an EU Member State

On 8 August 2022, a Bulgarian Regional Court, acting as a first instance, allowed the extradition of Alexey Alchin, a Russian national, to Russia upon the request of the Russian Prosecutor’s Office. This controversial decision sparked much debate among Bulgarian civil society because Alchin became known for burning his Russian passport at a protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and for maintaining anti-war stances. In the eyes of Bulgarian civil society, the request for his extradition is politically motivated.

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21 June 2022

Covering Up and Rewarding the Destruction of the Rule of Law One Milestone at a Time

Once upon a time, when still a candidate for President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen solemnly declared: “there can be no compromise when it comes to respecting the Rule of Law. There never will be.” As it is now clear, this was just Orwellian doublespeak.

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26 May 2022

Partygate, Inquiries, and how not to Learn Lessons in the UK

Responding to public pressure and the criticisms of bereaved families, many states have begun to examine the actions and decisions taken during the COVID-19 pandemic. Public inquiries or parliamentary investigations are an essential step in this examination and can provide lessons to support an effective future response to crisis. In any such investigation, the question of who investigates and what is investigated can be as important as the findings themselves. However, a barrier to learning will be the political pressure not to own up to failures or failings, particularly where it concerns a culture of government or a style of governance still practiced. What this can collectively amount to is a failure to learn: a critical failing where it is not question of if a future crisis arises – but when.

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29 April 2022

Bulgaria’s Failed Specialized Criminal Justice Experiment

On 14 April 2022 Bulgaria’s Parliament adopted legislative amendments, which finally put an end to the Specialized Criminal Court and its mirroring Specialized Prosecutor’s Office. Both institutions were set up during Boyko Borissov’s first term as Prime Minister in 2011 and severely undermined the rule of law in Bulgaria. The creation and development of these structures was encouraged and marked as progress by the European Commission, which calls into question the Commission’s ability to objectively monitor the rule of law in its Member States, to recognize threats, and to give adequate recommendations.

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21 April 2022

The legacy of the privacy versus security narrative in the ECtHR’s jurisprudence

The past two decades of counterterrorism strategy attest to the fact that the security/privacy trade-off approach is not only outdated, but that it also amounts to a gross oversimplification of the complexities involved in the modern culture of surveillance. Nevertheless, the ECtHR's acceptance of bulk interception regimes as measures that in principle fall within states’ discretion seems to be predicated on this outdated trade-off.

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18 March 2022

Impunity

On 10 March 2022, Bulgaria’s Supreme Judicial Council decided unanimously to postpone examining two requests for the dismissal of General Prosecutor Ivan Geshev from office. This decision is not merely a procedural trick with questionable legality. It provides further proof that the Supreme Judicial Council has unhealthy dependencies and is one of the main reasons why a General Prosecutor of Bulgaria can abuse his office and commit crimes with impunity.

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16 February 2022

No More Excuses

Sitting as a full court, due to the exceptional importance of the case, the Court of Justice has dismissed the annulment actions brought by the Hungarian and Polish governments against the Rule of Law Conditionality Regulation. A non-exhaustive account of the main substantive issues addressed by the Court.

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04 November 2021

Yellow Light for Disciplining Inconvenient Judges?

The case of the disciplinary proceedings against the Bulgarian judge Miroslava Todorova (Requête no 40072/13) which has recently been examined by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) caught the eye of those following the rule of law decay in the European Union. On the surface, it appears that the recent ECtHR judgment on Todorova’s case is a mere example of the ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’ legal maxim – after all, the application was submitted in 2013 and the Court ruled against Bulgaria only in 2021. However, a closer look reveals that the ECtHR found in favor of Bulgaria on the two most worrisome questions.

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20 September 2021

International Pandemic Lawmaking

The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has brought global health structures into sharp relief: it exposed the gross inequalities and inequities of health care access, as well as the symbiosis between human rights, health care, politics, economics, and the law. This symposium, “International Pandemic Lawmaking: Conceptual and Practical Issues,” was convened with two primary aims: to shed light on the inequities and imbalances exposed by global pandemic response, and to advocate recommendations on which principles should guide the framing and drafting of a potential international instrument on pandemic preparedness and response.

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28 July 2021
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How Not to Deal with Poland’s Fake Judges’ Requests for a Preliminary Ruling

In his Opinion of 8 July 2021 in Case C-132/20 Getin Noble Bank, AG Bobek advised the Court of Justice to find admissible a national request for a preliminary ruling originating from an individual who was appointed to Poland’s Supreme Court on the back of manifest and grave irregularities. In this specific case, contrary to the position of AG Bobek, we submit that the ECJ must find the request inadmissible as the referring individual cannot be considered a tribunal established by law.

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20 July 2021

Protecting Polish Judges from Political Control

After many years of judicial “reforms”, Kaczyński’s Poland may soon become the EU’s second authoritarian Member State, even as the European Court of Justice increasingly attempted to deal with different aspects of Kaczyński’s multi-pronged attacks on judicial independence. In Case C-791/19, the found the new disciplinary regime for Polish judges to be incompatible with EU law while in Case C-204/21 R, the Vice-President of the ECJ ordered the immediate suspension of the application of the legislative provisions governing the jurisdiction of the infamous “Disciplinary Chamber”.

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09 June 2021

Framing and Raiding

In early June 2021, Bulgaria’s Prosecutor’s Office raided the Ministry of Interior and raised charges against a senior employee. According to the Minister of Interior Boyko Rashkov, the goal of the Prosecutor’s Office is to sabotage an inquiry into illegal wiretapping. A similar raid against the Bulgarian Presidency in July 2020 sparked mass protests. Bulgaria’s Prosecutor’s Office has an unrestrained authority that is used as a weapon against the opponents of the status quo.

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