Annual Report: Bulgaria 2010

May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Bulgaria 2010

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  • Criminal proceedings against Valentin Ivanov took more than eight years, commencing in May 1992 and ending in November 2000. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that this exceeded the "reasonable time" requirement, and noted that it had frequently found violations of the same right in cases against Bulgaria in the past.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Bulgaria was found to be in violation of the prohibition of torture or degrading treatment under the European Convention on Human Rights.

  • In January the European Court of Human Rights found that there had been a violation of the prohibition of torture and a lack of effective investigation into injuries, demonstrating that Georgi Dimitrov had been ill-treated in police custody. Arrested in 2001 on charges of fraud, he alleged after his release from prison in 2004 that he had been beaten by police officers. In March the CERD expressed concern about ill-treatment and excessive use of force by the police against minority groups, particularly Roma. The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee and the European Roma Rights Centre submitted a shadow report to CERD in which they cited cases of police ill-treatment of individuals or use of disproportionate force by the police against Romani communities.
  • In August the Military Court of Appeals upheld the 16 to 18-year sentences imposed on five "anti-mafia" police officers convicted in 2008 of beating to death 38-year-old Angel Dimitrov in the city of Blagoevgrad. The police officers appealed against their sentences to the Supreme Court of Cassation.

Mental health institutions

NGOs continued to be critical of the admission procedures and living conditions in social care institutions for people with mental illnesses.

  • The European Court of Human Rights in November heard two cases regarding placements and living conditions in care homes in the towns of Pastra and Pravda respectively. In both cases, it was claimed that individuals had been deprived of legal capacity and forcibly placed under guardianship. The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture had recommended closure of the Pastra institution in 2003 because deficiencies in its living conditions and care amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment, and the government had indicated its agreement with the recommendation in 2004.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

Asylum-seekers continued to be detained for periods of several months, or even years.

  • The European Court of Justice in November ordered the immediate release of Said Kadzoev, an asylum seeker of Russian nationality and Chechen origin who would be at risk of torture and other ill-treatment if forcibly returned to the Russian Federation. In a landmark ruling, the Court found that the exception to the 18-month limit on the detention of asylum-seekers, proposed by the Sofia City Administrative Court, would contravene the EU directive on standards and procedures for returning illegally staying third-country nationals. Said Kadzoev was detained in 2006, and had remained in custody in spite of his lawyers' applications for less severe measures. The Court said that asylum seekers should not be detained as a punishment for not possessing valid documents or for aggressive behaviour.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people

The second lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pride march was held in Sofia in June. In the run-up to the march, the leader of the far-right party, the Bulgarian National Union, announced a "week of intolerance" as a response to the event. The march was protected by the police and no incidents were reported.