Amnesty International Annual Report 2011 - Bulgaria
|Publication Date||13 May 2011|
|Cite as||Amnesty International, Amnesty International Annual Report 2011 - Bulgaria, 13 May 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4dce157b2.html [accessed 23 October 2017]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Head of state: Georgi Parvanov
Head of government: Boyko Borissov
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 7.5 million
Life expectancy: 73.7 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 17/13 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 98.3 per cent
Roma faced widespread discrimination. Demolitions of Romani homes and evictions of families continued. An NGO investigation found that children had died in care homes due to preventable causes, including starvation, neglect or cold, between 2000 and 2010.
Discrimination – Roma
Discrimination faced by Roma remained widespread and the legal framework for the protection against discrimination of ethnic minorities was deficient. In April, the Council of Ministers submitted a proposal for an amendment of the Protection Against Discrimination Act to parliament. It suggested that the equality body entrusted with monitoring the anti-discrimination law and the examination of individual complaints should be reduced from nine to five members. NGOs raised concern that this would seriously jeopardize protection against discrimination.
In March, the European Court of Human Rights found Bulgaria in violation of the prohibition of discrimination and the right to a fair trial. A district court had imposed a custodial sentence on a Romani woman convicted of fraud in 2005 despite the prosecution's recommendation for a suspended sentence. The district court had reasoned that, especially among members of minority groups, a suspended sentence would not be considered as a punishment. The European Court concluded that such reasoning amounted to differential treatment on the ground of ethnicity.
Following the forced eviction of 200 Roma and the dismantling of their houses in 2009, in January, the municipality of the town of Bourgas reportedly ordered the demolition of 20 homes by bulldozers. The mayor was quoted in local media reasoning that the municipality would not allow "roaming Roma" and was "trying to get the message across" that every time illegal construction took place, it would be cleared.
In April, a Romani settlement in the Sofia borough of Vrubnitsa was demolished in what the municipality called a "spring clean-up operation", reportedly following a petition of residents of the borough in January demanding the eviction of Roma living in the settlement.
Torture and other ill-treatment
Serious concerns were raised over the treatment of children in social care homes, and the adequacy of previous investigations into excessive use of force.
Children in social care homes
In September, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee published the results of its investigation into cases of deaths of children with mental disabilities in social care homes carried out in collaboration with the Prosecution Service. The investigation found evidence of 238 deaths which occurred between 2000 and 2010. The causes of death established during the research included starvation, neglect, general physical deterioration, infections, freezing to death, pneumonia and also violence. The NGO suggested that at least three quarters of these deaths could have been avoidable and that a large number of these deaths had never been investigated. Following publication, criminal investigations were reportedly initiated into 166 cases.
Excessive use of force
The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee reported in July that excessive use of force and firearms by law enforcement officers continued to be practised by and large with impunity.
In January, the Supreme Court of Cassation revoked the prison sentences of five police officers, who had been initially sentenced to a total of 82 years for beating Angel Dimitrov to death in 2005. The Court referred the case back to the Military Court of Appeal, reportedly due to procedural violations and mainly a failure to adequately assess the cause of death. In November, the Military Court of Appeal halved the initial prison sentences of the police officers.
In July, the European Court of Human Rights established a violation of the right to life of Gancho Vachkov, fatally shot in the head by the police during a pursuit in Sofia on 6 June 1999. The Court concluded that the shooting "was not absolutely necessary", and that the subsequent investigation failed to be thorough, impartial and effective.
In October, the European Court found in the case of Karandja v. Bulgaria that the state had violated the right to life of Peter Karandja in June 1997. Domestic legislation allows the use of firearms to arrest a suspect, regardless of the seriousness of the alleged offence or the threat to other people. However, the shooting of Peter Karandja, resulting in his death, was found unlawful. It was established that there were shortcomings in the collection of evidence, witness statements and the evaluation of facts, and the state failed to inform the victim's relatives about the results of the investigation.
In June, NGOs reported an increase in attacks by far-right groups and inadequate reactions from the police and the government. There were reports of attacks against Roma, foreign nationals, Muslims and LGBT people.
On 6 June, four young people were reported to have been severely beaten on a tram by a group of about 20 masked men – allegedly self-identified neo-Nazis – in the capital, Sofia. The assailants, armed with knuckle dusters and knives, attacked the four men on their way to a demonstration at the temporary accommodation centre in Busmantsi against the detention of foreign nationals. Six of the alleged perpetrators were arrested.
Refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants
Local NGOs reported a tendency towards abuses of power by the authorities in the expulsion of foreign nationals.
In February, the European Court of Human Rights held that Bulgaria would violate the right to family life and the right to an effective remedy of Pakistani national Ali Raza, if he were deported to Pakistan. Ali Raza, who married a Bulgarian national in 2000, had been placed in a detention centre between 2005 and 2008 pending his deportation. An expulsion order in 2005 alleged he would constitute a serious threat to national security, but did not provide factual grounds. While the Court recognized that the use of confidential material may "prove unavoidable where national security is at stake", it held that the complete concealment of the judicial decision from the public cannot be regarded as warranted. Since the only known allegation against Ali Raza was "information that [he] had been involved in human trafficking", the Court concluded that the notion of national security was stretched "beyond its natural meaning" and the authorities failed to specify further particulars about the alleged threat.