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Bulgaria: UN expert launches mission on the independence of judges and lawyers

GENEVA / SOFIA (9 May 2011) – The UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, will visit Bulgaria from 9 to 16 May 2011 to learn about the country’s judicial reform, access to justice, legal assistance and counsel, the legal profession and the prosecution service.

“Bulgaria is undertaking legal reform that includes many issues that are at the core of my mandate,” said Ms. Knaul, who will visit Bulgaria at the invitation of the Government. “My upcoming mission represents a unique opportunity to assess progress made and ensure that all obstacles to the development of a truly independent judiciary are adequately addressed in the judicial reform strategy.”

The Special Rapporteur’s mission will take her to Sofia, Blagoevgrad and Kardjali to record progress achieved in protecting and enhancing the independence of judges and lawyers and identify remaining challenges on the independence of the judiciary, including attacks against legal professionals and court officials. She will hold discussions with representatives of the Government, UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, and others involved in issues related to her mandate. Ms. Knaul will present her findings to the Human Rights Council in 2012.

A press conference will be held in Sofia on 16 May at 1:00 p.m. in the premises of the Bulgarian News Agency (49, Tzarigradsko Shose, Sofia).

The UN expert’s mission to Bulgaria will be followed by a visit to Romania, from 17 to 24 May 2011. Further details will be provided nearer the start of the visit.

Gabriela Knaul took up her functions as UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers on 1 August 2009. In that capacity, she acts independently from any Government or organization. Ms. Knaul has a long-standing experience as a judge in Brazil and is an expert in criminal justice and the administration of judicial systems.

Learn more about the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/judiciary/index.htm

OHCHR Country page – Bulgaria: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/ENACARegion/Pages/BGIndex.aspx

For additional information and media requests during the visit, please contact Ms. Tsvetelina Bonova, UNICEF office in Bulgaria (Tel.: +359 88 2424443 / email: tbonova@unicef.org) or Ms. Mireya Maritza Peña Guzmán, OHCHR (Mob.: +41 79 20 10 119, email: mpena@ohchr.org).