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Bulgaria: Status of the Security Services and the Army

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 November 1998
Citation / Document Symbol BGR30049.EX
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Bulgaria: Status of the Security Services and the Army, 1 November 1998, BGR30049.EX, available at: [accessed 12 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis 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.


Since 1989, successive Bulgarian governments have made reforms to the country's military and security services, including a series of personnel changes in early 1997, first under a caretaker administration, then under a new Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) government (RFE/RL 24 Feb. 1997; Country Reports 1997 1998, 1009). In late 1997-early 1998, in part spurred on by its unsuccessful bids to join NATO and the European Union, the government initiated a number of long-term structural changes to both the security services and the military (Mihailova 27 Apr. 1998).

The European Commission (EC), in its 1997 opinion on Bulgaria's application for membership, stated that the country's newly-established democratic institutions had yet to be backed up by legal practices "at all levels" (15 July 1997). In particular, the EC stated that abuses of power by police and the security services were "all too frequent", a concern shared by several human rights organizations (ibid., Country Reports 1997 1998, 1009-1010; HRW 1998, 246; BHC 1998; AI 1998). Country Reports noted that in 1997, the Ministry of the Interior's control over the various services remained incomplete (1998, 1009) and the Prime Minister suggested that a civil inspectorate overseeing the police might help eradicate the problem of police violence (BTA 26 Sept. 1998). However, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) commented that in a positive development, abuses by the police and security services were widely reported in the media for the first time (1998).

This Extended Response provides information on the current status of Bulgaria's security services and army, in light of the recent spate of legislative initiatives.

A) Intelligence and Security Services

        In 1989, the security system consisted of six "main directorates" with the following responsibilities: first-foreign intelligence, second-counterintelligence, third-military counterintelligence, fourth-scientific and technical intelligence, fifth-protection of the leadership and sixth-"political police" (RFE/RL 26 Nov. 1993, 46). One source stated that the first, second and sixth directorates had embodied the "repressive force of the regime" (EECR Fall 1997b, 82).

In 1990, the first directorate (foreign intelligence) was replaced by the National Intelligence Service (NIS) (Bulgaria: A Country Study 1993, 270). The second (counterintelligence) was replaced by the National Security Service (NSS), which one source described as a "catchall" with responsibilities ranging from countering foreign intelligence, enforcing certain domestic laws, and combating political corruption and illegal fascist or nationalist organizations (ibid.). The third and fourth directorates (military counterintelligence and scientific and technical intelligence) were disbanded (RFE/RL 26 Nov. 1993, 41). The fifth directorate (protection of the leadership) was replaced by the National Protection Service (NPS) (ibid.). The sixth directorate (the "political police") was disbanded immediately after the 1989 change in government (ibid., 45; Bulgaria 1, n.d.). Units to combat terrorism and organized crime were established in 1991 (RFE/RL 26 Nov. 1993, 42). The NSS, NIS and NPS were placed under the Defence Ministry with the Defense Act of 1995 (Durzhaven Vestnik 27 Dec. 1995).

The number of people employed in intelligence and security was reduced in the period after 1989. According to one report, 17,000 Ministry of the Interior employees left within a year, many to work for new private protection firms or become security consultants (EECR Fall 1997b, 82). The report suggested that many also became involved in trafficking of embargoed and excised goods (ibid. 82-83). Other reports have noted that private security firms are often suspected of being fronts for organized crime (AP 22 Mar. 1998; RFE/RL 24 Feb. 1997). According to Radio Free Europe, President Stoyanov alluded to some of these firms having "political protection" (ibid.).

The Law on the Ministry of Internal Affairs which was passed in July 1991 (ibid. 26 Nov. 1993, 41-42) and other related legislation includes a list of officially designated state secrets (1990, amended 1992) (attached) and the Special Intelligence Means Act (1994, amended 1997).

Recent Laws Related to Security Services

        In July 1997, the Law on Disclosure of Secret Police Files was passed (EECR Fall 1997a, 8; AP 8 Aug. 1997). In accordance with that law, a commission led by the Interior Minister was set up to investigate the possible intelligence activities under the Communist government of a number of public officials (ibid.; EECR Fall 1997a, 8). Anyone who was listed as an agent for the previous security apparatus, or who had an archived file indicating they had been agent, was given two months to resign before a list of the names was published (ibid.). Several officials reportedly resigned after being informed that their names would be released, allegedly including the Deputy Chair of the NIS, a former employee of the first directorate (Demokratsiya 7 Aug. 1997; EECR Fall 1997a, 8-9). In October 1997, a list of 23 officials who had served as agents or informants for the communist security service was made public (AFP 18 Nov. 1997b).

Individuals can submit a request to view their files, although many of the files-between 50 and 70 per cent according to estimates-were in fact destroyed several years ago (EECR Fall 1997a, 8; AFP 18 Nov. 1997b). As of September 1998, close to 20,000 people had made requests to see any files that might have existed on them (BTA 1 Sept. 1998b). Of the almost 6,000 people who received a response, 1,502 were told that they had personal files (ibid.).

In October 1997, the Special Intelligence Means Act was passed, which outlined the types of information-gathering activities that intelligence services can undertake to prevent or investigate serious crimes or activities that threaten national security (Bulgaria 3, n.d.; BHC 1998). Special means include making audio and video recordings, taking photographs and monitoring correspondence (ibid.) The BHC expressed concern at the act's failure to define "national security" and hence the basis for any intelligence activities (ibid.). It is not clear whether investigators have in fact gathered information in this way, although according to the Director of the National Investigation Service, an investigation unit that is part of the Procuracy, investigators had not yet used materials gained through such information-gathering activities, as of March 1998 (BTA 17 Mar. 1998; ibid. 17 July 1998).

In December 1997, the government passed the new Ministry of the Interior Act1. It consolidated the individual laws governing the Ministry's institutions and created two new institutions: the military police, which will be covered by its own legislation, and the border police (BHC 1998; Bulgaria 2, n.d.; ibid. 10, n.d.). The National Security Service (NSS) was also placed under the Interior Ministry at that time (ibid.). The law was designed in part to address concerns about lack of coordination among the Ministry's various services (Kontinent 30 Mar. 1998; Pari 8 Oct. 1997).

The following services come under the Interior Ministry: National Security Service, National Service for Combating Organized Crime, National Border Police Service, National Gendarmerie Service, National Police Service, and National Fire and Emergency Safety Service (Bulgaria 1, n.d.; ibid. 12, n.d.). The Ministry has a Capital Directorate in Sofia and Regional Directorates, which are located in the following cities: Blagoevgrad, Bourgas, Varna, Velico Turnovo, Vidin, Vratza, Gabrovo, Dobritch, Kardjali, Kjustendil, Lovetch, Montana, Pazardjik, Pernik, Pleven, Plovdiv, Razgrad, Russe, Silistra, Sliven, Smolian, Sofia, Stara Zagora, Targoviste, Haskovo, Shumen, Iambol (ibid. 5, n.d.).

According to the BHC, the new law "failed to strengthen the necessary citizen's and judicial control over the activity of the Interior Ministry. On the contrary, in some respects, it became an even more closed institution" (1998). The group cites, as an example, the fact that investigations of certain ministry officials require the approval of the Minister of the Interior (ibid.). According to a state press agency review, the act's draft implementing regulations states that citizens must, on request, provide information to counterintelligence officers (BTA 3 Aug. 1998). The agency further reports " in extreme situations, they [the border police] will have the right to enter private non-residential properties even against the owner's will" (ibid.).

Interior Ministry Services

The National Security Service is responsible for counterintelligence activities, which include combating threats to international and internal security, investigating violations of state secrets, and countering arms and drug trafficking, terrorism, and illegal migration (Bulgaria 6, n.d.).

The National Service for Combating Organized Crime investigates both national and international organized criminal activities, including financial crimes, terrorism, arms dealing, migrant trafficking and state corruption (Bulgaria 7, n.d.). These types of crimes have been made a ministry priority and the government launched a National Strategy for Fighting Crime on 23 July 1998. The Strategy calls for the establishment of a financial police unit and a financial intelligence unit to control and trace assets and schemes to legalize unearned income (BTA 23 July 1998; see also Trud 23 Apr. 1998). In September 1998, a service against organized crime, or anti-mafia unit, was reported to be in operation (Trud 23 Sept. 1998).

The National Strategy also limits the powers of the investigative services (see section on National Investigation Service) by permitting them only to investigate cases already in the court jurisdiction. The Strategy confers on the courts the ability to instigate detention or search and seizure orders (BTA 23 July 1998). In addition, decisions made by the Ministry of Justice's prosecutors (Procurator's Office) regarding the initiation or termination of criminal procedures investigations will be subject to appeal (ibid.).

The National Border Police Service maintains security at all of the country's border points and will reportedly have an investigative as well as an enforcement role (BTA 3 Aug. 1998; Bulgaria 8, n.d.). (See the attachment entitled "Border Check Points" (Bulgaria 12, n.d.) for a list and map of border posts; this document is available at on the Internet.)

According to a November 1997 report, the number of border posts will be cut in half, from 270 to 135, by the end of 1998, although the 12,000 staff will apparently not be affected (Trud 9 Nov. 1997). The border police had been under the Defence Ministry until the 1997 amendments to the Defense and Armed Forces Act (Khorizont 25 Aug. 1997). The government aims to bring its border control policies into line with the European Union's, which would entail tightening of controls on non-EU borders (EC 15 July 1997; BTA 22 July 1998).

A 1998 survey conducted by the Centre for Democratic Studies indicated that the Bulgarian population is particularly concerned that the border police are involved in corrupt activities (RFE/RL 4 Feb. 1998). There have been several investigations and arrests of border officials for smuggling (ibid. 6 May 1998; Reuters 2 June 1997). In May 1998, the Deputy Interior Minister responsible for borders was fired, apparently in conjunction with a crackdown on smuggling at the Oriakhovo border (RFE/RL 6 May 1998).

The National Gendarmerie, formerly called Internal/Interior Troops (and also referred to as the Red Berets), were under the Defence Ministry until the 1997 amendments to the Defense and Armed Forces Act (Khorizont 25 Aug. 1997). The service is responsible for the security of establishments deemed to be strategic by the Council of Ministers, along with engaging in local security matters and criminal investigations in support of police activities (Bulgaria 9 n.d.; ibid. 11, n.d.).

The National Police Service keeps public peace, and prevents and investigates crimes (Bulgaria 4, n.d.). The force is divided into district police stations that come under the jurisdiction of the ministry's regional directorates (Bulgaria 14, n.d.).

In the spring of 1998, the Chief Prosecutor released a report detailing police abuse, which prompted the Interior Minister to reply by providing information about corruption within the Procuracy, the section of the Ministry of Justice responsible for prosecuting cases in court (RFE/RL 11 May 1998; EECR Winter 1998, 8). The report stated that police abuse of suspects often goes unreported if the suspect is released after the abuse occurs, as is usually the case (Kontinent 29 May 1998). According to a newspaper article by a BHC representative, "falaka", or beating of the soles of the feet, is a common form of abuse (ibid.).

Several human rights groups also cited numerous reports of police abuses in 1997  (BHC 1998; AI 1998; ibid., Oct. 1997, 1; Country Reports 1997 1998 1009-10, HRW 1998, 246; Council of Europe 2 Sept. 1998, 20; ERRC Dec. 1997, 22-26). According to one source, there were 528 reported cases of police abuse in the first half of the year (ibid., 22). Reported beatings and unlawful killings by police officers occurred both in and out of custody, generally during criminal investigations (BHC 1998; HRW 1998, 246; AI 1998). According to the Council of Europe, the incidents of police abuse, which had increased according to some NGOs, and the lack of prosecution against perpetrators, had created an atmosphere of impunity for the police (2 Sept. 1998, 20).

Roma neighbourhoods were also reportedly attacked by police officers in 1997 (BHC 1998). On 10 July 1998, police reportedly assaulted several Roma in the village of Metchka (Mechka) during a house to house search for stolen property (AFP 23 July 1998; Trud 23 July 1998). Police denied they used excessive force during the operation (ibid.; AFP 23 July 1998). In mid-1997, the UN expressed concern that police did not respond effectively to race-related crimes and noted allegations that security forces had used excessive force against members of minorities, particularly Roma (23 Apr. 1997). The European Commission on Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), the BHC, Amnesty International and the Council of Europe all point out that police abuse of Roma is of particular concern (ECRI June 1998; BHC 1998; AI Oct. 1997, 6; Council of Europe 2 Sept. 1998, 20, 22).

The ECRI report released in mid-1998, based on information gathered up to the fall of 1997, recommended that security officials receive human rights and race relations training in light of persistent reports about police attitudes to minorities (ECRI June 1998). Although no information was found by the IRB's Research Directorate about state-sponsored training offered to police, the Bulgarian Roma rights NGO Human Rights Project, conducted round-table discussions with police in 1996 and 1997 to discuss alleged human rights abuses against Roma (Roma Rights Winter 1998, 31-34). The HRP found that although the initial response by the police to the seminars had been uneven, police in some cities have promised to investigate allegations and to work with the HRP and Romani leaders (ibid., 32, 34).

Concerns have also been expressed about corruption and inappropriate behaviour within the police service. A special police unit, cited as a riot unit, was disbanded in June 1998 after police assaulted patrons during a dance club raid and then attacked a number of security guards at a restaurant the following week (AP 3 July 1997). The Interior Minister stated that the unit's "total collapse of discipline" had precipitated its dissolution (ibid.; see also Country Reports 1997 1998, 1011). The report added that the authorities believe the police force is "rife with corruption," citing the discovery that three police officers had leaked information to suspects on an organized crime investigation (AP 3 July 1997).

In July 1998, several police officers were arrested on charges related to drug trafficking (ibid., 16 July 1998). The 1998 Centre for Democratic Studies poll indicated that over half of the population believed that police officers take bribes (RFE/RL 4 Feb. 1998). The survey also showed that 63 per cent of the people believe that judges accept bribes (ibid.). According to the Interior Minister, 42 per cent of all cases investigated by police are solved, but only one per cent of those convicted are jailed (ibid. 9 Dec. 1997). He asked Parliament to enact legislation to provide further control over the judiciary (ibid.). As indicated below, efforts to reform the judiciary had been unsuccessful as of mid-October 1998 (BTA 14 Oct. 1998; ibid. 16 Oct. 1998).

Investigations into crime and corruption involving personnel from the Defence and Interior Ministries and from the Transport and Construction Troops are carried out by military investigators within the National Investigation Service (Pari 8 June 1998; Standart News 14 July 1998). Two sources indicate that each of the 36 to 39 military investigators has a case load of 70 to 200 enquiries (ibid.; Pari 8 June 1998). Over 1,700 cases were filed between January and June 1998. In addition, there was a backlog of almost 900 incidents remaining to be investigated from 1997 (Pari 8 June 1998). Reports following-up on alleged abuse cases frequently mention investigations through district military prosecutors' offices, although complaints are also made through the National Police Directorate and NGOs such as the HRP (ERRC Dec. 1997, 22-25; AI Oct. 1997, 2-6; BHC 1998). The Council of Europe stated that the very involvement of the prosecutors' offices in the investigation of police behaviour might be in contradiction with the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), which Bulgaria ratified in 1992 (2 Sept. 1998, 7, 20-21).

Three human rights organizations have expressed concern that procedures to investigate police abuses were inadequate (ibid., 20; ERRC Dec. 1997, 64; HRW 1998, 246). For example, initial investigations are internal, procedures are too long and inadequately carried out and, according to Human Rights Watch, complainants are themselves often charged (ibid.; BHC 1998). BHC noted that as of 1997, no police officer had been charged under Penal Code Article 287, which covers illegal extraction of evidence (ibid.; see also Kontinent 29 May 1998). A police spokesperson stated in November 1997 that of 74 complaints of abuse received to date that year, only 17 showed sufficient grounds to be turned over to military prosecutors for further investigation (AI 1998). The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) stated that, generally, prosecutors often denied receiving oral complaints or refused to open investigations when cases of abuse by officials were brought forward (Dec. 1997, 64). The ERRC also reported cases of police convicted of abuse, but added that sentences were inadequate or completely suspended (ibid., 64-65). As of December 1997, there were no avenues for judicial review of prosecutors' decisions (ibid., 66-67). Amendments to the judiciary, including the prosecution service, were stalled in Parliament as of mid-October 1998 (BTA 14 Oct. 1998; ibid. 16 Oct. 1998).


        The Ministry of the Interior, particularly the National Gendarmerie and the Border Police units, is apparently short-staffed; the Chief Secretary of the Ministry suggested that people were unwilling to work in the Ministry due to perceptions of corruption (Kontinent 30 Mar. 1998). There are fewer staffing concerns, however, at the officer level (ibid.). In April 1998, it was announced that the Regional Heads of the Interior Ministry would be replaced as part of an overhaul of the Ministry's senior management, and three high ranking officials, including the head of the Border Police, had resigned, by force according to Trud, amidst corruption allegations (Trud 15 Apr. 1998; AP 17 Apr. 1998).

National Investigation Service

        The Procuracy and its National Investigation Service, part of the Judiciary, are responsible for oversight of law enforcement agencies and places of detention (ERRC Dec. 1997, 9; UN 3 July 1997, par. 28). According to the BHC report mentioned previously, the National Investigation Service has been responsible for numerous human rights abuses (Kontinent 29 May 1998). No specific cases are cited, although reference is made to documented instances of "minor physical damage" and "maiming" (ibid.). The ERRC stated that in early 1997 interviews, National Investigation Service detainees alleged physical abuse, as well as inordinately long stays, poor conditions and lack of proper counsel (Dec. 1997, 33).

As part of its restructuring efforts, the government is trying to alter fundamentally the relationship between the Interior Ministry and the Procuracy and its National Investigation Service (EECR Fall 1997a, 7; UN 3 July 1997, par. 27; Trud 1 Apr. 1998). Several drafts of the Law on the Judiciary have been examined to reform the National Investigation Service (EECR Spring 1998, 5-6). In mid-October 1998, the President vetoed amendments to the Judiciary Act approved by Parliament (BTA 14 Oct. 1998; ibid. 16 Oct. 1998). The amendments would have subordinated regional investigative services to district courts and converted the National Investigation Service into a "specialized investigative service under the Sofia City court", a change often portrayed in the media as its abolition (ibid.; ibid. 24 July 1998; ibid. 17 July 1998; Kontinent 1 Oct. 1998). The amendments also covered the dismissal and disciplining of members of the judiciary (BTA 16 Oct. 1998; ibid. 14 Oct. 1998). The Council of Europe reported that many of its sources believed that the proposed amendments would give excessive control over the judiciary to the Minister of Justice and cited the reorganization of the National Investigation Service as a particular concern (2 Sept. 1998, 11).

B) Armed Forces

        The Bulgarian army under the Communist government was a highly politicized institution, even in comparison with other Eastern European countries, and was often involved in political matters (Bulgaria: A Country Study 1993, 238; Jane's Intelligence Review 1 Sept. 1997). In 1990, shortly after the change in government, communist party cells in the ranks were removed and political activity in the army was made illegal (ibid.; Bulgaria: A Country Study 1993, 238-39). In December 1995, the National Assembly adopted the Act on the Defense and the Armed Forces of the Republic of Bulgaria2. The armed forces as constituted by Article 7 of that act included the military as well as Border Troops (Police), Interior Troops, Transport Troops, Troops of the Committee for Posts and Telecommunications, Construction Troops, the National Security Service, the National Intelligence Service, and the National Protective Service (Durzhaven Vestnik 27 Dec. 1995)3.

In December 1997, the Defense Act was substantially amended (see attached copy of the amendments). The new law changed the Bulgarian forces from a fully-conscripted to a semi-professional army and codified the alterations made to the troop structures under the Defence Ministry since 1995 (AFP 2 Nov. 1997; Bulgaria 10, n.d.). In a speech to members of the NATO Council, Minister of Foreign Affairs Nadezhda Mihailova stated that the changes aim generally to improve civilian control over the forces and bring them into line with NATO guidelines (ibid.; Mihailova 27 Apr. 1998; Bulgaria 10, n.d.). According to the Director of Sofia's Institute for Security and International Studies (ISIS), this legal framework is currently hampered by a lack of appropriately-skilled and trained civilians within the Defence Ministry (26 Aug. 1998).

In October 1997, the first step in a change-over to a semi-professional force was to begin with the recruitment of 120 military professionals with monthly salaries between 127,900 and 193,430 leva (US$73-110) (Khorizont 20 Aug. 1997). However, interest in the positions was very low and sources state that only 48 or 69 were hired at that time (AFP 2 Nov. 1997; Reuters 23 Sept. 1997; BTA 7 Aug. 1998). A second recruitment effort was launched in late June 1998 and drives are scheduled to be held every two months (ibid.). By September 1998, 133 had been hired, with another 350 scheduled to be hired by the end of the year (ibid. 3 Sept. 1998).

Over the next three years, the army will shrink from roughly 100,000 to 75,000 personnel (Mihailova 27 Apr. 1998; AFP 2 Nov. 1997). It is expected that by the end of 1998, it will be reduced by 10 per cent: roughly 2,168 officers, 2,499 sergeants and 4,427 soldiers will be cut (Bulgarska Armiya 25 May 1998; ibid. 28 July 1998). By 2005, conscription is to be cut to half the 1998 levels, to 25,000-35,000 (Trud 12 Aug. 1998). By 2010, 35 per cent of army personnel is expected to be professionals (BTA 3 Sept. 1998).

The Council of Ministers adopted a programme and timetable for the restructuring of the forces, scheduled to be completed by the turn of the century (Trud 30 Apr. 1998). The army will be divided into two division zones in the north of the country, as well as two corps in the south (AFP 2 Nov. 1997; Bulgarska Armiya 25 Aug. 1997). A third corps, a rapid reaction force, will be located in the central city of Plovdiv (Demokratsiya 6 May 1998; Duma 29 Aug. 1997). The rapid reaction force began operations in September 1998 (BTA 1 Sept. 1998a).

Some of the specific restructuring details include the closing of 28 garrisons and 40 per cent of the missile troops units before 2001 (Trud 30 Apr. 1998). Air bases at Balchik, Shtruklove, Gabrovnitsa and Uzunzhovo will be closed by 1999, leaving eight bases (ibid.). Garrisons at Asenovgrad, Devin, Dupnitsa, Samokov, Khaskovo and Brezhnik and a Samokov missile base were closed at the end of August 1998 (Kontinent 31 Aug. 1998). In total, 40 units will be disbanded (Bulgarska Armiya 28 July 1998). Once the restructuring is complete in 2000, a 10-year plan to modernize equipment will commence, although the Commander of the Air Force has suggested that a lack of resources might hamper rearmament activities (AFP 2 Nov. 1997).

The 1997 act reduced the terms of conscript service from 12 to 9 months for university graduates and from 18 to 12 months for others (Trud 13 Nov. 1997). Soldiers who had already reached the new limits were to be discharged on 1 January 1998 (ibid.; Khorizont 25 Aug. 1997). Men whose brothers died while in the service are now to be offered a discharge, as are men in charge of invalid relatives (Trud 13 Nov. 1997). University students will not be required to perform their duties until they reach 27 years of age (ibid.).

Alternative Service

        A draft Law on the Substitution of Military Obligations with Alternative Service was approved by the Council of Ministers in December 1997 (BHC 1998; Tolerance Foundation 26 Feb. 1998). The BHC, the Tolerance Foundation, and Amnesty International noted that the length of the alternative service will be two years, as opposed to one year for standard service, contrary to the European Parliamentary guidelines (ibid.; AI 4 Feb. 1998; BHC 1998). The Bulgarian groups also expressed concern that the service will be subject to quotas (ibid.; Tolerance Foundation 26 Feb. 1998). The Tolerance Foundation was of the opinion that the wording of the draft, which states that the service is based on "a constitutional right to freedom of conscience, thought and religion" might exclude those who object to service on ethical, non-religious grounds (ibid.). Amnesty International also expressed similar concerns (4 Feb. 1998).

Alternative service is restricted to government organizations, and there are certain limitations placed on the activities of those performing alternative service (BHC 1998; BTA 25 June 1998). Service cannot be conducted in commercial organizations, cooperatives or foundations (ibid.). Pay and benefits such as food and work clothing are equivalent to regular service (ibid.). Individuals who join the alternative service can ask to transfer to regular service, but the reverse is not allowed (ibid.; BHC 1998; AI 4 Feb. 1998). The bill is expected to be passed by Parliament by the end of 1998 (ISIS 26 Aug. 1998).

Conditions and Personnel

        Poor conditions in the forces stemming from lack of resources, and complaints about corruption led to several protests by army officers in early 1997 (RFE/RL 11 Feb. 1997; ibid. 7 Jan. 1997). In April 1998, the Defence Minister, acknowledging past difficulties, stated that improvements had since been made (Demokratsiya 3 Apr. 1998).

In November 1997, an audit on corruption throughout the military was released (RFE/RL 13 Nov. 1997). It expressed specific concern about those involved in supply distribution (ibid.). One newspaper report alleged that individuals have been declared unfit for service by bribing military personnel, while another stated that 25 officers had been dismissed for theft (AFP 18 Nov. 1997a; ibid. 1 Nov. 1997). In January 1998, officials revealed that approximately 800 million leva (US$456,334) worth of items was missing from the 1997 army inventory (Demokratsiya 17 Jan. 1998). The possibility of laying charges against 43 men was to be investigated (ibid.). The punishments for unspecified "corruption and abuse" were increased the next month (Bulgarska Armiya 4 Feb. 1998).

An August 1998 report suggested that there were concerns about alcohol and drug use in the army, particularly in units around Sofia, Burgas, Varna and Vratsa (Demokratsiya 5 Aug. 1998a). The First Army Corps reportedly had "seven drug addicts" as well as "12 members of religious sects" in its first 1998 intake of new recruits, who were considered members of risk groups, according to the Corps Commander (Kontinent 28 Feb. 1998b). The ISIS Director stated that, in addition to drug and alcohol use, there is also an inordinate number of suicides and individuals with psychological disorders in the ranks (26 Aug. 1998).

According to the ISIS Director, while there was no "targeted discrimination" of minorities within the services, Turks and Roma have difficulty becoming officers due to poor educational opportunities (ibid.; see also Council of Europe 2 Sept. 1998, 18). Harassment tends to be based on the amount of time served, "the so-called old/young soldiers' conflict", rather than on minority grounds (ibid.). The Council of Europe reported that Turks and Roma often serve their conscript time performing non-military duties, in violation of International Labour Organization (ILO) standards (2 Sept. 1998, 18). Amnesty International's Annual Report 1997 noted officers' mistreatment of recruits, while an August newspaper article suggested that incidences of bullying were reportedly declining (AI 1998; Demokratsiya 5 Aug. 1998a).

In mid-1998, officials announced that 400 officers had applied for discharges, although it was not certain whether they were leaving the forces altogether or looking for other military jobs (ibid. 6 May 1998; Trud 22 Apr. 1998). At the time, there were 19,000 officers in the army (ibid.). One report suggested that the drain was due to a forthcoming legislative change that would cut severance pay from 20 to 6 months' salary (ibid. 21 June 1998).

Intelligence Functions

        The military has both intelligence and counterintelligence functions. Military counterintelligence, taken over from the Interior Ministry in 1991, counters foreign intelligence activities deemed dangerous to Bulgaria's interests, maintains state secrets and fights crime within the forces (Bulgarska Armiya 21 Apr. 1997; RFE/RL 26 Nov. 1993, 43). Military intelligence focuses on obtaining information on other powers that might affect Bulgarian security (Kontinent 28 Feb. 1998a). The two functions are covered by separate acts, the latter of which was expected to come before the National Assembly in 1998 (ibid. 28 Feb. 1998a; Bulgaria 10, n.d.). An August 1998 audit of the military intelligence unit reportedly revealed several possible cases of corruption and financial embezzlement (Demokratsiya 5 Aug. 1998b).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


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Bulgarian News Agency (BTA). 16 October 1998. "Bulgaria-Judiciary-Law" [Internet]. [Accessed 16 Oct. 1998]

_____. 14 October 1998. "Press Review: President's Veto of Judiciary Act." [Internet]. [Accessed 15 Oct. 1998]

_____. 26 Sept. 1998. "PM Statement-Police Violence." [Internet]. [Accessed 15 Oct. 1998]

_____. 3 September 1998. "Politics: News: Bulgaria-Professional Army." [Internet]. [Accessed 4 Sept. 1998]

_____. 1 September 1998a. "Politics: News: Bulgaria-Army-Rapid Reaction Force." [Internet]. [Accessed 2 Sept. 1998]

_____. 1 September 1998b. "Politics: News: Bulgaria-Secret Service Files." [Internet]. [Accessed 2 Sept. 1998]

_____. 7 August 1998. "Politics: News: Bulgaria-Army-Regular Soldiers". [Internet]. [Accessed 10 Aug. 1998]

_____. 3 August 1998. "Press Review: Draft Implementing Regulations for Interior Ministry Act". [Internet]. [Accessed 4 Aug. 1998]

_____. 24 July 1998. "Press Review: Amendments to Judiciary Act; Prosecutor's Office." [Internet]. [Accessed 4 Aug. 1998]

_____. 23 July 1998. "Politics: News: Bulgaria/National Strategy on Combat Against Crime." [Internet]. [Accessed 24 July 1998]

_____. 22 July 1998. "Press Review: Spain to Assist Bulgaria in Lifting Schengen Visa Requirements." [Internet]. [Accessed 23 July 1998]

_____. 17 July 1998. "Bulgaria-Judiciary Act-Amendments." [Internet]. [Accessed 27 Aug. 1998]

_____. 25 June 1998. "Parliament Adopts Bill on Alternative Military Service." (BBC Summary 27 June 1998/NEXIS)

_____. 17 March 1998. "Top Crime Investigator Criticizes Interior Ministry."  (BBC Summary 19 Mar. 1998/NEXIS)

Bulgarska Armiya [Sofia, in Bulgarian]. 28 July 1998. "Bulgarian General Briefs Attaches on Army Restructuring." (FBIS-EEU-98-217 5 Aug. 1998/WNS)

_____. 25 May 1998. "Army Personnel to Be Cut by 10 Percent by End of Year." (FBIS-EEU-98-146 26 May 1998/WNS)

_____. 4 February 1998. "Army Leadership Discusses Rapid Reaction Forces, Radar." (FBIS-EEU-98-036 5 Feb. 1998/WNS)

_____. 25 August 1997. "Bulgaria: Bulgarian General Staff Chief Views Armed Forces Reforms." (FBIS-EEU-97-240 28 Aug. 1997/WNS)

_____. 21 April 1997. "Bulgaria: Military Counterintelligence Chief Views Tasks, NATO." (FBIS-EEU-97-113 23 Apr. 1997/WNS)

Council of Europe. 2 September 1998. Doc. 8180. Honouring of Obligation and Commitments by Bulgaria. [Internet]. [Accessed 15 Oct. 1998]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1997. 1998. United States Department of State. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office.

Demokratsiya [Sofia, in Bulgarian]. 5 August 1998a. "Cases of Alcohol, Drug Abuse Reported on Rise in Army." (FBIS-TDD-98-217 5 Aug. 1998/WNS)

_____. 5 August 1998b. "Dismissals Expected in Military Intelligence After Audit." (FBIS-EEU-98-217 5 Aug. 1998/WNS)

_____. 6 May 1998. "Bulgaria: Bulgarian Army Chief Views State of Army, Plans." (FBIS-EEU-98-126 6 May 1998/WNS)

_____. 3 April 1998. "Bulgaria: Defense Minister Views Army Funding, Restructuring." (FBIS-EEU-98-093 3 Apr. 1998/WNS)

_____. 17 January 1998. "Bulgaria: Army Inventory Reveals Shortages; Personnel Disciplined." (FBIS-EEU-98-019 19 Jan. 1998/WNS)

_____. 7 August 1997. "National Intelligence Service Deputy Chief Resigns." (FBIS-EEU-97-219 7 Aug. 1997/WNS)

Duma [Sofia, in Bulgarian]. 29 August 1997. "Ground Forces Commander Details Proposed Cuts." (FBIS-EEU-97-241 29 Aug. 1997)

Durzhaven Vestnik [Sofia, in Bulgarian]. 27 December 1995. "Law on the Defense and the Armed Forces." (FBIS-EEU-96-23-S/WNS)

East European Constitutional Review (EECR). Spring 1998. Vol. 7, No. 2. "Bulgaria".

_____. Winter 1998. Vol. 7, No. 1. "Bulgaria".

_____. Fall 1997a. Vol. 6, No. 4. "Bulgaria".

_____. Fall 1997b. Vol. 6, No. 4. Jovo Nikolov. "Organized Crime in Bulgaria"

European Commission [Brussels] (EC). 15 July 1997. Commission Opinion on Bulgaria's Application for Membership of the European Union. (DOC/97/11)

European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI). June 1998. "Report on Bulgaria." [Internet]. [Accessed 10 Aug. 1998]

European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC). December 1997. Profession: Prisoner: Roma in Detention in Bulgaria. Budapest: ERRC.

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 1998. Human Rights Watch World Report. New York: Human Rights Watch.

Institute for Security and International Studies (ISIS). 26 August 1998. Correspondence from the Director.

Jane's Intelligence Review (Clousdon, Surrey(. 1 September 1997. Ken Gause and Stephen E. Nikolov. "Bulgaria Faces up to Military Reform." (NEXIS)

Khorizont [Sofia, in Bulgarian]. 25 August 1997. "Bulgaria: Cabinet Adopts Defense Bill Amendments." (FBIS-EEU-97-237 25 Aug. 1997/WNS)

_____. 20 August 1997. "Bulgaria: Professional Army Recruitment to Begin 1 Oct." (FBIS-EEU-97-232 20 Aug. 1997/WNS)

Kontinent [Sofia, in Bulgarian]. 1 October 1998. Fani Chodzhumova. "Commentary Says Judiciary Bill Cripples Magistrates." (FBIS-EEU-98-275 2 Oct. 1998/WNC)

_____. 31 August 1998. "Six Additional Ground Troops Garrisons Closed." (FBIS-EEU-98-243 31 Aug. 1998/WNC)

_____. 29 May 1998. "Bulgaria: Bulgarian Helsinki Committee Alleges Police Violence." (FBIS-EEU-98-149 29 May 1998/WNS).

_____. 30 March 1998. "Bulgaria: Interior Ministry Official Views Reform, Successes." (FBIS-EEU-98-089 30 Mar. 1998/WNS).

_____. 28 February 1998a. "Bulgaria: Bulgarian Military Intelligence Chief Views Tasks." (FBIS-EEU-98-061 2 Mar. 1998/WNS).

_____. 28 February 1998b. "Bulgaria: First Army Corps to Close Four Garrisons." (FBIS-EEU-98-037 6 Feb. 1998/WNS).

Mihailova, Nadezhda. 27 April 1998. "Intensified Dialogue NATO-Bulgaria". [Internet]. [Accessed 20 July 1998]

Pari [Sofia, in Bulgarian]. 8 June 1998. "Military Investigators to Deal with 100 Cases Each." [Internet] [Accessed 26 Aug. 1998]

_____. 8 October 1997. "Bulgaria: Security Service Stresses Need for Impartiality." (FBIS-EEU-97-281 8 Oct. 1997/WNS)

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). 11 May 1998. Ivo Indzhev. "Bulgaria: Conflict Between Crime-Fighting Institutions Reaches Peak." [Internet]. [Accessed 21 July 1998]

_____. 6 May 1998. "Bulgaria Cracks Down on Corruption." [Internet]. [Accessed 26 Aug. 1998]

_____. 4 February 1998. "Bulgarian Polls Suggest Widespread Corruption." [Internet]. [Accessed 26 Aug. 1998]

_____. 9 December 1997. Ivo Indzhev. "Bulgaria: Corruption Problems Call for Action." [Internet]. [Accessed 26 Aug. 1998]

_____. 13 November 1997. Ivo Indzhev. "Bulgaria: Corruption, Theft in Armed Forces Uncovered." [Internet]. [Accessed 21 July 1998]

_____. 24 February 1997. Ivo Indzhev. "Bulgaria: Minister Replaces Police Chief, Other Officials." [Internet]. [Accessed 24 July 1998]

_____.11 February 1997. "Bulgaria: President Meets Protesting Military Officers." [Internet]. [Accessed 21 July 1998]

_____. 7 January 1997. Ivo Indzhev. "Bulgaria: Anonymous Letter Attributed to Army Officers." [Internet]. [Accessed 21 July 1998]

_____. 26 November 1993. Vol. 2, No. 47. RFE/RL Research Institute. Kjell Engelbrekt. "Reinventing the Bulgarian Secret Services."

Reuters. 23 September 1997. Elisaveta Konstantinova. "Bulgaria's Professional Army Plan Hits Early Snag." [Internet]. [Accessed 26 Aug. 1998]

_____. 2 June 1997. "Bulgaria Police Step up Fights Against Corruption." (NEXIS)

Roma Rights [Budapest]. Winter 1998. Savelina Danova. "Roma-Police Seminars in Bulgaria."

Standart News [Sofia, in Bulgarian]. 14 July 1998. "One-Third of Military Investigators Resign." (FBIS-EEU-98-195 14 July 1998)

Tolerance Foundation. 26 February 1998. 1997: Religious Freedom in Bulgaria. [Internet]. [Accessed 30 July 1998]

Trud [Sofia, in Bulgarian]. 23 September 1998. "Anti-mafia Police Seize Cocaine in Hollowed-out Computers." (FBIS-EEU-98-266 23 Sept. 1998/WNC)

_____. 12 August 1998. "Army Chief Sees Cuts Causing 'Difficult Years' Ahead." (FBIS-EEU-98-224 12 Aug. 1998/WNS)

_____. 23 July 1998. "Bulgaria: Police Version of Raid on Village Gypsies Reported." (FBIS-EEU-98-204 23 July 1998/WNS)

_____. 21 June 1998. "Bulgaria: Many Officers Said to Be Resigning from Army." (FBIS-EEU-98-173 22 June 1998/WNS)

_____. 30 April 1998. "Bulgaria: Ground Troops Garrisons, Air Forces Bases to Be Closed." (FBIS-EEU-98-120 30 Apr. 1998/WNS)

_____. 23 April 1998. "Bulgaria: Bonev Claims State Winning Struggle Against 'Mafia.'" (FBIS-EEU-98-115 25 Apr. 1998/WNS)

_____. 22 April 1998. "Defence Ministry Says Young Officers 'Fleeing Army.' (FBIS-EEU-98-112 22 Apr. 1998/WNS)

_____. 15 April 1998. "Bulgaria: Ministry Expected to Replace Regional Police Chiefs." (FBIS-EEU-98-105 15 Apr. 1998/WNS)

_____. 1 April 1998. "Bulgaria: National Investigation Service Chief Answers Critics." (FBIS-EEU-98-091 1 Apr. 1998/WNS)

_____. 13 November 1997. "Bulgaria: Compulsory Army Service in Bulgaria Cut to 12 Months." (FBIS-EEU-97-317 13 Nov. 1997/WNS)

_____. 9 November 1997. "Bulgaria: Some 130 Border Posts to be Closed by End of 1998." (FBIS-EEU-97-314 10 Nov. 1997/WNS)

United Nations. 3 July 1997. International Human Rights Instruments. Core Document Forming Part of the Reports of States Parties: Bulgaria. (HRI/CORE/1/Add.81).

_____. 23 April 1997. International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 9 of the Convention: Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. (CERD/C/304/Add.29)


Bulgaria 12. no date. "Border Check Points." [Internet]. [Accessed 28 July and 25 Aug. 1998]

_____ 13. 1992. "List of Facts, Information and Objects, which Represent State Secrets of the People's Republic of Bulgaria." [Internet].  

Durzhaven Vestnik [Sofia, in Bulgarian]. 19 December 1997. "Amendments to Bulgarian Defense Law." (FBIS-EEU-98-064 5 Mar. 1998/WNS)


1 The law is currently being translated into English and will be available via the Interior Ministry's web site: It details the services' structures and responsibilities (Bulgaria 2).

2 The act is published in FBIS: East Europe Daily Report (FBIS-EEU-96-233-S) and is available at the IRB's Resource Centre or on the Internet via World News Connection.

3 As noted previously, the Border Police, Military Police, Interior Troops (Gendarmerie) and NSS were later placed under the Interior Ministry (Bulgaria 10, n.d.).

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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