The authorities were criticized for failing to prevent anti-Roma violence, which spread throughout the country in September. A demonstration by supporters of a “far-right” political party resulted in a violent assault against Muslims in Sofia. Asylum-seekers were reported to be routinely detained in violation of domestic and EU legislation.
In July, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed concerns over the ongoing widespread discrimination suffered by Roma in accessing justice, employment, and services such as housing and education. The Committee reminded the authorities of their obligation to prevent, investigate and punish acts of hate crime and harassment against minorities and religious communities, especially Roma and Muslims.
Anti-Roma violence spread throughout Bulgaria after a non-Romani man was hit by a minibus with a Romani driver in Katunitza on 24 September. The incident triggered demonstrations with strong anti-Roma sentiments. In Katunitza, several houses belonging to Roma were set on fire. NGOs, including the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, criticized the authorities for their failure to take the necessary steps sooner to stem the violence. It was reportedly only in the subsequent days that the police guarded entrances to some Roma neighbourhoods and arrested more than 350 people. According to media reports, the Prosecutor General responded to the protests by sending instructions to regional prosecutors, reminding them of the need to respond to acts that may amount to violence on racial, religious and ethnic grounds.
A number of criminal proceedings against individuals arrested during and after the protests were reportedly concluded.
On 20 May, Muslims were assaulted while praying in front of the Banya Bashi Mosque in Sofia when a demonstration organized by supporters of the nationalist political party National Union Attack (Ataka) turned violent. Four Muslim men and a member of parliament from Ataka were reportedly injured. An investigation was opened, but the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee reported that the assaults were prosecuted as “hooliganism” rather than acts of discriminatory violence. The assault was noted with concern by the UN Human Rights Committee, which criticized the authorities for their poor enforcement of existing anti-discrimination legislation.
On 18 June, following the Sofia Pride march, five Pride volunteers were attacked by a group of unknown individuals. The rights activists, three of whom suffered minor injuries, suspected that their attackers had followed them as they were leaving the march. They expressed their concern that the incident would be treated by the authorities as “hooliganism” rather than a hate crime because the Bulgarian Criminal Code does not recognize sexual orientation as a possible motive for such crimes. According to the Minister of Interior, the police investigation into the case was closed without the perpetrators being identified.Top of page
In November, the UN Committee against Torture noted with concern the lack of transparency regarding the selection and appointment of judges and members of the Supreme Judicial Council. It held that the principle of an independent judiciary had not been respected by high-ranking government officials, and was not fully applied within the judiciary.
In November, the UN Committee against Torture expressed concerns over excessive use of force and of firearms by law enforcement officers. It called on Bulgaria to take measures to eradicate all forms of harassment and ill-treatment by police during investigations.
In November, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee alleged that asylum-seekers had been held in detention by the authorities, contravening domestic legislation and the EU Asylum Procedure Directive. Reportedly, up to 1,000 asylum-seekers were being detained in Liubimets and Busmansti detention centres. The director of the State Agency for Refugees stated that limited capacity in open reception centres had resulted in the practice. The draft National Strategy on Asylum, Migration and Integration also acknowledged that Bulgaria lacked the institutional capacity to fulfil the basic requirements for receiving asylum-seekers.