On November 13, 2007, in hotel Sheraton in Sofia the Center for the Study of Democracy organized a round table Reinforcing Criminal Justice in Border Districts.
In his opening remarks Ambassador Steve Williams, British Ambassador to the Republic of Bulgaria shared his satisfaction with the cooperation between the Center for the Study of Democracy and the British Embassy. He underlined the importance of the theme for entire European Union.
The Chairman of CSD Dr. Ognian Shentov talked about the relevance of the problem. He explained that the cross-border crimes and the customs violations are not only issues of domestic significance, but are European problems as well. On national level these types of crimes and violations determine the specificity of criminal justice in the border districts. The latter are increasingly becoming a target of organized crime, often connected to international criminal networks. This specificity, however, still does not face adequate counteraction on the part of the law enforcement and judicial authorities, which in turn are also in process of reforms.
The report Reinforcing Criminal Justice in Border Districts was presented by Mr. Dimitar Markov, Project Coordinator of the CSD Law Program, and Dr. Maria Yordanova, Director of the CSD Law Program. Mr. Markov thanked the institutions that have provided the necessary statistics for the drafting of the report. He spoke about the general problems and specificities inherent in the detection, investigation into, and prosecution of offences relating to cross-border crimes. Dr. Maria Yordanova talked about the legislative, organizational and technical measures indispensable to improve law enforcement and criminal justice in the areas that straddle Bulgaria’s borders with Turkey, Macedonia and the Black Sea.
The Minister of Interior Mr. Rumen Petkov referred to an analysis made by the Chief Directorate Border Police explaining that there is an increasing interest in Bulgaria’s external borders. He outlined the undertaken and forthcoming measures for the reinforcement of the borders and paid attention to the necessary improvement of the contractual framework with Turkey.
Mr. Rumen Nenkov, Deputy Chair of the Supreme Court of Cassation, explained the undisputed necessity of justified changes in the legislation as regards the preliminary investigation and the possibility not to reveal the identity of undercover agents. According to Mr. Nenkov, better coordination of efforts is also needed in the name such a publicly important objective as the punishment of offenders.
Mr. Konstantin Penchev, Chairman of the Supreme Administrative Court and Member of Supreme Judicial Council, talked about the problems of administrative penal procedures for customs violations. He underlined the importance of the recommendations to the Supreme Judicial Council related to the human and financial resources of the judicial bodies in the border districts.
Mr. Rumen Georgiev, Deputy Director the National Investigation Service and Chairman of the Chamber of the Investigators in Bulgaria, spoke about the need to use the capacity of the investigation services as long as their functions are currently very limited.
Mr. Alexander Rakov, Deputy Director of the Customs Agency, gave a positive evaluation of the recommendation for the reinstating the investigative officers at the customs that existed before the entry into force of the new Criminal Procedure Code. According to him, the participation of customs officers in the investigation of cross-border crimes would improve the efficiency of the competent authorities.
Mr. Nikolai Solarov, Prosecutor from the Supreme Prosecution Office of Cassation, confirmed the necessity of extending the statutory time limits for the pre-trial investigations. He paid attention to the other possibilities for accelerating the procedures, including through the admission of expert assessments performed by private organizations.
Media Coverage (in Bulgarian)