Civil Court Watch in Razgrad

In 2004-2005 Consortium NGOs Center in Razgrad, Youth Forum 2001- Razgrad, Woman Support Centre in the Village of Strazhets monitors court cases, in which at least one party is representative of vulnerable group- people with disabilities, disadvantaged citizens, ethnic minorities, victims of violence, children, lone parents, prisoners, drug addicts. Selected by public tender civil observers participating in the meetings, documented statements and behavioral responses of the participants in the process.

The project used a new methodology for civil court watch of judicial proceedings, which was piloted for the first time in 4 cities in Bulgaria in 2005 (Sofia, Varna, Bourgas and Razgrad) by project of the Open Society Institute. Bulgarian organizations were trained by the American partners of the project on the role of the civilian observer guidelines what and how to observe in the courtroom, how to communicate with the media.
The NGOs Centre in Razgrad elaborate understanding of the methodology with inclusion of questionnaire survey the public image of the Court and a deep study of public opinion.

1. To ensure that the judicial system will be responsible for their actions, by ensuring the presence of nationals in the courtroom;
2. To improve the administration of Justice;
3. To increase public awareness and confidence of the public in the judicial system.
4. To establish negative trends, practices and problems in the judicial system, and develop options to solve them;

1. To maintain a constructive but not hostile relations with the judiciary;
2. To help the judiciary to reach its potential, identify deficiencies, giving recommendations for possible solutions and with lobbying for changes;
3. To disseminate and exchange information with organizations and institutions that provide direct services and support to people from the target group of the project;
4. To consider and realize the complexity of the decisions which workers in the judiciary must take;
5. To help achieve a balance between the rights of the accused and the safety of society, between effective judicial proceedings and good results from it, between quick justice and justice to the victims.

Over the past eight years in the courts of the various courts in the Northern Bulgaria regularly attended civil observers- volunteers or staff of the supervising organization, which have received specific training on the criminal and civil procedure, rules of conduct in the courtroom and monitoring purposes. They monitor the judicial inquiries into matters designated by the NGOs Centre in Razgrad and partners such as the supervising institution.

The regular presence of civil observers reminds of all working in the justice system- judges, lawyers, judicial officials that are responsible to the public and that the public wants to know what happens in the courtroom.

All civil observers wearing red folders to be recognized by court officers. They are trained to monitor and to note: behavior of judges, use of inappropriate humor, accuracy, acoustics, manifestation of understanding and sympathy to the victims and their safety, clarity of explanations given by judges and lawyers, a breach of the order in the courtroom. In some hearings volunteers whose task is to record the specific decisions of the Court, comments and data described in the special forms for monitoring.

The notes of the observers shall be analyzed by experts of the NGOs Centre in Razgrad and partners who provide feedback of judges, prosecutors, lawyers, supervisors, etc. This information includes recommendations for further investigation of a case or comment on the hearing, in which is requested praise to a judge or other judicial officer or highlight a problem with the way in which has seen the case. In some cases, the volunteers of the supervising organization reviewed the judicial archives and records to obtain more information about a specific event or to track trends in the work of the judiciary.

The NGOs Centre in Razgrad and partners such as the monitoring organization shall communicate the results of the monitoring on specific matters in bulletins or through the media, to inform the public and to strengthen the impact of these matters in society. The Centre of the NGO in Razgrad, emphasis on such matters, to improve the operation of the judicial system in them and thus to contribute to the safety of victims and for the engagement of responsibility by the perpetrators.

The attention of observers is often directed to matters connected with violence or with participants from vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. In many legal areas courts not adopted serious offences related to disadvantaged groups and people with low social status.