Human rights in Bulgaria
|This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Although Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007, its compliance with human rights norms is far from perfect. Although the media have a record of unbiased reporting, Bulgaria’s lack of specific legislation protecting the media from state interference is a theoretical weakness. Conditions in Bulgaria’s twelve aging and overcrowded prisons generally are poor. A probate reform in mid-2005 was expected to relieve prison overcrowding.
The police have been accused of abusing prisoners and using illegal investigative methods, and institutional incentives discourage full reporting and investigation of many crimes. The constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but local governments have attempted to enforce special registration requirements on some groups not designated as historically entitled to full protection. Besides the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, the faiths so designated are the Jewish, Muslim, and Roman Catholic. Court backlogs and weak court administration make constitutional protection of defendants’ rights problematic in some instances.
Institutions for children and adults with mental disabilities
The conditions in Bulgaria's network of institutions for children and adults with mental disabilities have raised concerns. The Mental Disability Advocacy Center has launched a collective complaint under the European Committee on Social Rights regarding the failure to provide education for children in social care homes run by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy; and a case is currently pending before the European Court of Human Rights concerning the alleged failure to investigate inhuman and degrading treatment in institutions for adults. The documentary "Bulgaria's Abandoned Children" (TrueVision, 2007) was broadcast on BBC Four in the UK in September 2007, and depicts the deprivation of food, health-care and education for children at the institution in Mogilino. The widespread institutionalisation of children in Bulgaria is unlikely to be consistent with the best interests of the child, and almost certainly violates Article 23 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Articles 11, 12 and 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) [dead link]
There exists a small number of individuals identifying as ethnic Macedonian in the Blagoevgrad province of Bulgaria. The 2001 census shows 5,071 while other sources cite between 3,000 and 25,000. The Greek Helsinki Monitor reports that the "Bulgarian state and public opinion alike deny their right to self-identification", and that "any actions pertaining to public demonstration of the Macedonian identity in Bulgaria are subjected to a more or less direct suppression and denial". That considered, Macedonian is given as an option for nationality on the census. The Bulgarian majority (including the press) regards Macedonians living in Bulgaria as 'pure' Bulgarians.
Macedonians have been refused the right to register political parties (see United Macedonian Organisation Ilinden and UMO Ilinden - PIRIN) on the grounds that the party was an "ethnic separatist organisation funded by a foreign government", something that is against the Bulgarian constitution. The constitutional court has not however banned the Evroroma (Евророма) and MRF(ДПС) parties, who are widely considered as ethnic parties. The European Court of Human Rights held "unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association) of the European Convention on Human Rights."  
Numerous cases have been cited regarding the ill-treatment of the Roma population by the Bulgarian police. There is widespread discrimination against the Roma in Bulgarian society, and as of 2006[update], the Bulgarian government has not implemented any laws legislating against the discrimination of Roma.  Bulgarian state security forces have been known to arbitrarily arrest and abuse street children of Roma ethnic origin. The Roma are subjected to harassment in Bulgaria, including the hazing of Roma army conscripts and poor police responses to crimes committed against Romas. A high percentage of Roma children do not attend school, both due to poverty and a lack of teachers who speak their native language.
There has been a growing awareness of human trafficking as a human rights issue in Europe (see main article: trafficking in human beings). The end of communism has contributed to an increase in human trafficking, with the majority of victims being women forced into prostitution.   Bulgaria is a country of origin and country of transit for persons, primarily women and children, trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. The Bulgarian government has shown some commitment to combat trafficking but has been criticised for failing to develop effective measures in law enforcement and victim protection. [dead link]
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion; however, the law prohibits the public practice of religion by unregistered groups. The Constitution also designates Eastern Orthodox Christianity as the "traditional" religion. There were some reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice. Discrimination, harassment, and general public intolerance, particularly in the media, of some religious groups remained an intermittent problem.
Notes and references
- Text used in this cited section originally came from: Bulgaria (June 2005) profile from the Library of Congress Country Studies project.
- "Minorities in southeast Europe: Macedonians in Bulgaria".
- "Bulgaria: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices".
- "Trafficking in Persons Report". June 3, 2005.
- Censorship in Bulgaria - IFEX
- Documentary - Bulgaria's Abandoned Children
- Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
- Mental Disability Advocacy Center
- Warehouses of Neglect - a blog about human rights violations in Bulgaria's institutions for children and young adults with mental disabilities
- European Roma Rights Center - Strasbourg Court Sanctions Bulgaria for Failure to Bring Perpetrators of Racist Killing to Justice
- NGO Roma Together Database of cases of Roma human rights violations