Bulgaria Human Rights

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.

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.

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.

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