Annual Report: Bulgaria 2010

Report
May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Bulgaria 2010

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Head of state Georgi Parvanov
Head of government Boyko Borissov (replaced Sergey Stanishev in July)
Death penalty abolitionist for all crimes
Population 7.5 million
Life expectancy 73.1 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 17/13 per 1,000
Adult literacy 98.3 per cent

The Romani community continued to face multiple and widespread discrimination, as well as the threat of forced eviction from their homes. The prolonged detention of asylum-seekers contravened EU legislation. The European Court of Human Rights found that Bulgaria had violated the prohibition of torture and degrading treatment in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Background

Following parliamentary elections, a new minority government was appointed under Prime Minister Boyko Borissov in July. The ruling Citizens for European Development party was supported by three smaller parties including the far-right Attack party, which had a history of anti-Roma and anti-Turkish speech.

Discrimination – Roma

The Romani community continued to suffer discrimination in education, housing and health care. In January, in shadow reports to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), several domestic and international NGOs highlighted frequent forced evictions of Roma. Roma in informal settlements often lacked security of tenure, exposing them to the threat of forced evictions and destitution. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance reported in June that discrimination against Roma was widespread and included restrictions in access to public places.

Right to adequate housing

  • In September almost 50 Romani homes were demolished and the families forcibly evicted in the town of Burgas. The local council's decision to demolish houses illegally built on municipal or private land left almost 200 people, who had lived in the area for several years, without accommodation. The NGO the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee reported that police used disproportionate force during the demolitions. Despite claims by the Mayor of Burgas that the families would be provided with alternative low rent council accommodation, no alternative housing was provided; the evicted Roma were only advised to apply for municipal housing. In September members of the community, represented by the NGOs Equal Opportunities Initiative and the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, submitted an individual complaint against the forced eviction to the UN Human Rights Committee.

Right to health – access to social assistance

In April, the European Committee of Social Rights found Bulgaria in violation of the European Social Charter. In response to a complaint filed by the European Roma Rights Centre and the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, the Committee ruled that the government had failed to ensure sufficient access to social assistance for people without adequate resources. The NGOs criticized an amendment to the Social Assistance Act which reduced the period in which unemployed people could obtain social assistance. They stressed that the amendment would have a disparate and unjustified effect on Roma who had been over-represented among beneficiaries. The Committee established that "adequate benefits" had to be payable to any person who was without adequate resources and in need, and that access could not be made subject to time limits, as that might leave an applicant without basic means of subsistence.

Detention without trial

Bulgaria was again found in violation of the right to a public hearing within a reasonable time under the European Convention on Human Rights.