Dnevnik talks with Yonko Grozev, the Bulgarian judge at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg, by phone. The occasion is a statement by Justice Minister Daniel Kirilov to reporters that Judge Grozev may be recalled because of a report and petition by representatives of the far-right French organization, which claims that 22 of the judges who worked between 2009 and 2019 are in court Conflict of interests. More about the report and the response in Bulgaria – read here.
Judge Grozev, your name along with that of Zdravka Kalaydjieva came under a report by ECLJ – European Center for Law and Justice claiming that judges at the European Court of Human Rights have been conflicting interests in some cases because you worked for human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) before becoming judges.
– I never hid that I worked for the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee. I declared this information when choosing PACE. It is public and appears in my CV.
The authors of the report are not casual people. They are suing the European Court of Human Rights against the right to abortion. The organization in question wants to ban it in different European countries. It is an imported American ideology that has been instilled in Europe.
For them, human rights organizations are opposed because they express the opposite of their position. Therefore, for them, judges who have previously worked for human rights organizations and do not express their views are a problem.
You are being attacked for six cases. Have you ever been admitted to a conflict of interest?
– I have never ruled in a conflict of interest – I have automatically discharged from all the cases I have been a lawyer before in Bulgaria. This is so basic! And on all of them a judge ad hoc from the Supreme Court of Cassation was coming to Sofia – before Pavlina Panova came, now Nina Raycheva is coming. How will I get into a case I was a lawyer in!
There were requests for dismissal in other cases as well, then the panel decided. The Strasbourg Court has very clear rules on the removal of judges when there is a conflict of interest. There are no examples in the report that this mechanism does not work.
I do not know the specific cases that are being brought to my attention. If there was a request for my dismissal, the panel has ruled.
How is the report in question accepted in court? Could this petition affect his work in any way?
– How to take? After all, the judges are not selected by the court, they are the PACE choice. There is no discussion on this.
Justice Minister Danail Kirilov today told reporters that you can be called by a qualified majority of judges at the ECtHR.
– Yes, there is such a text – if the judge violated the oath. This is not serious. In addition to me, the other colleagues mentioned in the report will have to be removed.
The very idea that being an NGO is a defamatory circumstance is very strange.
Why it's weird – On Wednesday, the Attorney General gave an interview on national radio, which revealed that there was a “network of NGOs” that was harmful. And whoever is related to them is also doubtful.
– Putin started it 7-8 years ago and it is no wonder that he reached Bulgaria.
Will the report and the petition have any consequences?
“Here in France, Marin Le Pen started yelling. Critics of the court were told to hate how much they hate him. Other far-right people called.
Where do you think the problem is in Bulgaria?
– I think that the problem of the Bulgarian authorities is the decision in the Kolev case for the uncontrolledness of the Attorney General, on which I was a lawyer and which they do not like at all.
The Minister of Justice said the following at your address: “Except in the justice system, when they return to Bulgaria, they do not give interviews in one or the other media with opinions that directly relate to the cases in which they participated. I quote Ionko Grozev's comment in “A diary regarding the opinion of the Venice Commission two days before I announce it, before the Venice Commission sends it to me.” How does it sound to you?
– This was a formal event of the Committee of Ministers in 2019, to which I was invited to participate in the discussion. How can I not make a comment ?! That's why the organizers had invited me officially. It wasn't until then that the government constantly changed the position of necessary changes to the prosecutor general. Again, we come to the Kolev case – that is the problem. Complete absurdities happen.