Nikolova and Vandova v. Bulgaria (Application No. 20688/04)
The applicant had worked as an investigator for the National Police, working in the specialized department dealing with intellectual property offences in the Regional Directorate of the Ministry of the Interior. She was charged with taking bribes and obstructing justice while performing her duty. The Interior Ministry provided documents to the Supreme Administrative Court and requested that the case be considered in camera on the grounds that some of the provided documents were classified and two of the documents were marked “secret.” The Supreme Administrative Court classified the entire case file as “secret” and conducted an in camera hearing despite the applicant’s objection, and found that the charges against the applicant were sufficiently established.
Violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention
The Court found a violation of the applicant’s right to a fair trial because the national court had conducted the trial in camera, where the public was excluded, without properly considering whether the classified document evidence was necessary and whether less restrictive measures could have been used for the court to review the evidence. The Court noted that the press and the public can be excluded from all or part of a trial for a number of reasons, including the protection of national security when classified information is presented at trial. However, the Court stated that the presence of classified information in a case file does not automatically require that a trial be closed, but requires the national court to balance the necessity of closing all or part of a trial to the public against the need to protect national security. In the instant case, the national court closed the applicant’s trial to the public because the Ministry of Interior had produced some documents that were marked “secret,” and did not permit the public to be present during a review of those documents. In finding a violation of the applicant’s right to a fair public trial, the Court held that the national court failed to follow two requirements: (1) it did not consider whether the documents were linked to the subject matter of the proceeding and (2) it did not consider whether taking measures other than restricting the public from attending the trial, such as conducting only the sessions relating to the classified documents in camera. As a result, the Court found a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.
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