Annual report of the Human rights Project on the situation of the human rights of the Roma in Bulgaria in 2002
no considerable progress was marked in the observance of the basic human rights
of the Roma in
most noticeable among the few positive developments was done in the sphere of
education. In September 20o2, the Minister of Education and Science issued an ‘Instruction on the Integration of the Children
and School Students of the Minorities’. This document plans stages of
desegregation of the Roma education, i.e. the liquidation of the factual
discrimination in the education of Roma children ensuing from the existence of
separate Roma schools. Although not supported by financial means for its
implementation, the document demonstrates that the Ministry of Education and
Science has the political will to bring desegregation into reality.
For the first time since the start of the first desegregation project three
years ago in
Although the practices of overrepresentation of Roma children in special schools as well as the sending of healthy children in such schools have not been interrupted, a step toward overcoming them is the Decree No. 6 on the Education of Children with Special Educational Needs and/or Chronic Diseases, issued in August 2002 by the Ministry of Education and Science. It establishes stricter criteria in the allocation of children in special schools and makes an attempt to stop the process of uncontrolled acceptance of normally developed children into special schools in using welfare criteria. Amendments were also made in September 2002 to the National Education Act, introducing mandatory free-of-charge preschool preparation for children. It is assumed that, in their mandatory preschool preparation, Roma children will also receive a practice of Bulgarian language, which will facilitate their integration in the mass school. We are still to see how this amendment will be applied.
On the other hand, the practices of torture, mistreatment, excessive use of force, inhuman and degrading treatment on the part of law-enforcement organs have not been overcome – they continue to exist as they did in the previous years (for more details, see further the correspondent sections of the Report).
the summer of 2002, we witnessed a precedent – the compulsory expulsion of the
infamous Zrankov family out of the town of
Discrimination against Roma – in the spheres of work, education and access to public services – continues to be a widespread practice (for more details see further the correspondent section of the Report).
Although with a decreased intensity as compared to previous years, the hate speech has not stopped in the media in relation to the Roma. It became especially strong about the Zrankov saga. As a whole, the image of the Roma minority in the press continues to be charged with many negative features.
the year 2002, a draft Discrimination Prevention Act was composed with the
active participation of NGOs, including the Human Rights Project.
In September 2002 this draft, which, according to the shared opinion of
experts, is of a very high quality, was adopted by the Council of Ministers and
deposed in the National Assembly. It was approved by the responsible
parliamentary commissions, but instead of continuing its way to the plenary
hall for the first and second reading, the draft law was stopped. This was done
as the consultative council on legislation, an auxiliary organ to the Chairman
of the National Assembly, issued an opinion addressing many criticisms against
the proposed draft. In their general form, these criticisms propose that the
anti-discrimination law with its very detailed provisions and the special
Commission which it plans to charge with the task of viewing complaints against
discrimination, should be replaced by a general short framework legal act. If
According to the program of the Government ‘People Are Bulgaria’s Treasury’, the end of 2002 was the deadline for the transformation of the National Council of Ethnic and Demographic Issues into an Agency for the Minorities. In December, the Roma leaders were made acquainted with a draft decree of the Council of Ministers on this issue, as well as with the draft for Regulations of the future Agency. Although the status of this institution does not allow it to have sanctioning prerogatives (i.e. it will not be able to impose punishments on those ministries, institutions or regional administrations which do not fulfil their obligations in particular within the Framework Program), its creation would nevertheless be an important step forward in the implementation of the Framework Program. The reasons are unknown why this Agency was not created and thus the Government failed to fulfill the deadline that it had set to itself.
This was also stated by the European Commission. In its yearly report on the progress of Bulgaria in the process of its joining the EU, as of October 2002, the Commission says that the implementation of the basic document through which discrimination against Roma will be overcome – the Framework Program for the Equal Integration of the Roma in the Bulgarian Society – continues to be unsatisfactory: ‘As was reported in the previous years, Bulgaria has a good framework program for the integration of minorities, directed to the Roma. Unfortunately, however, it is still not applied in practice. There is little change in the situation of the Roma minority after the last regular report and there has been no significant development to report in their social economical standing and their conditions of life… The conditions of life of the Roma are still direly bad. There is a reported weak progress in relation to… the legalization of the houses built illegally in the Roma neighborhoods, which means that there is a very restricted access to public services… The problems remain concerning the access to the system of health care. The financial imports required from patients, however low, are often too high for them. The participation in education remains weak… The Roma representation in public administration at the central level is utterly restricted… There are signals of an increasing tension between the Roma and the Bulgarian ethnic communities. Roma protests have taken place in several towns, as the people complain that they have not received their welfare money for too long.’
2002, with the exception of the above-mentioned Instruction of the Minister of
Education and Science, very little was done for the overcoming of the
separation of the Roma from the larger society. In some respects it was even
increased. A proof for that are the numerous uproars related to the supply of
electricity in the winter. Due to unpaid bills for electricity, the Roma were
imposed collective punishments – the introduction of a regime of restricted
power supply in whole neighborhoods. In this way, both those who don’t pay and
those who have no debt to the National Electric Company were punished. It is a
different issue that, firstly, the Electric Company must provide an e-meter to
every individual consumer (every family), and secondly, in the 21st
century the consumption of electric energy should be an elementary right of the
people which the society – within certain limits – should provide.
The uproars were most significant in the Stolipinovo neighborhood of the city
As in other years, there were many protests in 2002 of Roma against the unpayment or the great delay in the social welfare money. As it is known, for most of the permanently unemployed this is the only source of income. People protested on this account in Assenovgrad, Botevgrad, Ihtiman, Suvorovo and Cherven Bryag.
In March, the Roma in Kyustendil began to protest against the building of a high wall that would encircle the Roma neighborhood in the town. The official pretext for the construction of this wall (there is such a wall in Kazanlak and the pretext for its construction was the same) is to protect the population of the Roma neighborhood from the cars passing with a great speed on the highway. The Roma, however, feel that the real purpose of the wall is to hide the unsightly view of the ghetto from the eyes of the passing travelers, and they consider this humiliating.
I. The Implementation of the Framework Program
above was the evaluation of the conference of
About 2 000 000 leva have been granted for the training of about 4000 children, from the funds of the Japanese Development Fund. For 200 000 Euro, 50 teachers and 50 teacher assistants were trained in multicultural education and working in a mixed cultural environment. In Veliko Tarnovo and its region, a pilot project is being implemented for the teaching of Roma folklore in 30 schools in both Romany and Bulgarian.
Medical equipment has been purchased for general practitioners in Roma neighborhoods in three towns for 60 000 leva by a project of the World Bank. A project of 1 100 000 Euro is being carried out for the improvement of the access to health services in 15 Roma neighborhoods.
the sphere of urbanization, work is going on several projects for over 300 000
Euro for the town-planning regulation of the Lozenets Roma neighborhood in the
In 2002, according to the already quoted ‘Information…’, projects have also been implemented in the sphere of employment, the most important of which is the National Program ‘From Social Care to Providing Employment’ of the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, starting in the autumn of 2002. As it is known, it plans that 100 000 permanently unemployed people should pass from the social welfare system to a state of employment. They receive – for their participation in communal activities and public works – the minimum working wages (110 leva) and insurances. Unfortunately, the number cannot be established of the Roma who have been encompassed by this program in 2002 (according to plans, 40 000 jobs should have been created by the end of 2002) because the labor statistics provide no data on the ethnicity of employed and unemployed people. In the “Beautiful Bulgaria’ program, 733 people have worked in the first half of 2002, 1 654 were newly included and more than 2600 trained. It is not known how many of them are Roma but estimations are that 6900 Roma have found temporary employment in this program for 5 years.
2002, the National Council on Ethnic and Demographic Issues has supported
different events of Roma culture with 15 750 US dollars, and the Ministry of
Culture has donated about 24 000 leva for different cultural events (Festival
of Roma Culture and celebration of the New Year and the International Day of
the Roma – 8 April). Separately, within the framework of UNESCO, a project of
20 000 US dollars was approved (on
The list with explanations of different projects, implemented or planned, takes about 10 pages in the quoted document. As it was said, their total sum amounts to about 12 000 000 Euro.
At first glance, this is a very large sum.
However, first, a large part of
these projects and the funds spent on them have been contracted by the previous
projects under PHARE work with a great delay behind schedule. Thus, e.g., in
January 2003, an auction was announced for consulting services costing 765 000
Euro for the project ‘Technical
Assistance for the Implementation of Activities for the Integration of the
Roma’ (including activities to improve school attendance by Roma children,
retraining 300 teachers and 100 teacher assistants etc.). Due to different
bureaucratic reasons, most of which lie outside
Secondly, even if we limit ourselves only to the official number of Roma as provided by the census of 2001 (370 908; it is well known that more than 350 000 people are those who are Roma in the eyes of their environment but they themselves prefer to call themselves differently in public), we will obtain that the Bulgarian state has invested about 32 Euro per person per year, which is about 5 leva per month. (If, however, we take the actual number of Roma, which is about 700 000 according to expert estimates, then the investment for the development of the Roma minority becomes about 2,50 leva per month per person.)
Against the background of mass unemployment (over 70%, in some regions even more), against the background of the UNDP study ‘The Roma in Central and Eastern Europe: Avoiding the Dependency Trap’ as of 2001 which states that 84,3% of the Roma in Bulgaria are below the line of poverty (against 31,7% of the Bulgarians) and that 46,6% of the Roma are extremely poor (against 8,5% of the Bulgarians), and also that for 50% of the Roma in Bulgaria the social welfare money is the chief source of means for existence, the stated sum of 32 Euro per person per year does not create any optimism about a quick solution to the problem of the deep poverty of most Bulgarian Roma. According to the same study, the average spending of a Roma household was at least 3 times lower than the average spending of a Bulgarian household (calculated per capita and not per household), about 40% of the Roma are systematically hungry, 25% have nothing to eat at least one or two days per month.
is the reason for many Roma to use all kinds of methods to find food for
themselves and their families, and some of them die in the effort to find food.
Such is the case in which on 26 May 2002 a guard in the courtyard of a
closed-down military detachment in the village of Gabrovnitsa shot dead the
19-years old Miroslav Nedyalkov who
had entered the courtyard in order to collect metal scrap. There was a similar
case in the
Thirdly, there is no developed strategy for the solution of the problems of the Roma. There is not enough clarity as to priorities.
Thus, for instance, it is obvious that the desegregation of Roma education is the cheapest way to decisively overcome the educational gap between the Roma and the majority, and hence to relatively quickly increase the quality of life of the young people who, having education, could easier inscribe themselves into the labor market. However, despite the ‘Instruction’ of the Ministry of Education and Science, no funds for desegregation have been provided in the budget for this year. Such funds are to be found externally.
The National Council on Ethnic and Demographic Issues is a consultative body with no rights to impose its opinions to other ministries and institutions. The promised Agency for the Minorities did not become a reality. Besides that, there is an almost complete reliance only on the assistance of the European funds, but that assistance cannot replace either the consistent policy or the investment of the Bulgarian state.
Fourthly, the mechanism of coordinating the decisions of the administration with the needs and wishes of the Roma community is not sufficiently representative and needs improvement. Roma organizations have only a consultative status as members of the National Council on Ethnic and Demographic Issues.
II. Right to Life
In the sphere of the right to life, a positive change is that at 10 December 2002 the National Assembly has ratified Protocol No. 13 of the European Convention of Human Rights, by which the possibility to impose a death penalty in Bulgaria was eliminated definitively: now, no death penalty can be ordered even in times of war.
New developments on old HRP cases.
The court found that the violation of the right to life under Art. 2 was done on three different grounds: the fact of the death of the son of the complainant, the untimely providing of medical care on the part of the authorities, and the absence of an effective investigation on the case.
in the morning of
1997, the mother of the deceased Anguel Zabchikov, with the assistance of the
Human Rights Project and the
According to the complainants, Art. 2 of the European Convention of Human rights and Basic Freedom was violated on three separate grounds: the Bulgarian law and practice regulating the use of force by the military police do not correspond to the requirement to use such force solely when it is absolutely necessary and this violates the general obligation under Art. 2(1) for the protection of life by the law; a violation of Art. 2(2) of the Convention with regard of the murder of the persons Anguelov and Petkov; and that the investigation concerning the death of the Roma was prejudiced and ineffective.
It is claimed that, in violation of Art. 13 of the Convention, the authorities did not conduct a full investigation procedure and that the Bulgarian law does not provide an effective remedy against the inactivity of the prosecutor.
The complainants also claim a violation of Art. 14 of the Convention in relation to Art. 2 and Art. 13.
On 2 December 1998, during a police operation in which firearms were used at the Hemus highway near Sofia, police officers from Sofia shot the 19 years old Ayredin Mustafa who died in a hospital from his wounds on 7 December 1998.
A penal procedure was started on the case. It was established that the death of Ayredin Mustrafa was caused by a gun ball that had hit him.
In 2002, the parents of Ayredin Mustafa lodged a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights on the grounds of Art. 2, Art. 13 and Art. 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights and Basic Freedoms.
In their complaints, they claim that the state has not fulfilled its obligation to conduct due investigation on the facts that lead to the death of Ayredin Mustafa. The complainants also claim a violation of Art. 13 of the Convention, since the authorities did not conduct a complete and effective investigation in violation of this provision. The complaint also contains a claim of a violation of Art. 14 of the Convention.
On 4 March 2002, the Military Court of Appeal of the Republic of Bulgaria confirmed the sentence of the Sofia Military Court whereby head sergeant Kamen Atanasov was found guilty for causing the death of Velko Iliev by a service pistol on 24 September 1996 in the town of Kyustendil, due to a ‘negligent’ performance of a legally regulated activity representing a source of increased danger. Atanasov was ordered to pay to the civil claimants, heirs of Iliev, a compensation for caused nonmaterial damages amounting to 24 000 leva, together with the legitimate interests.
New cases of 2002
On 7 October 2002, in the outskirts of the city of Pleven, Ivan Hristov shot the 14 years old Zheko Georgiev who died as a result of the wounds. A penal procedure on the case was started in the District Prosecutor’s Office of Pleven under Art. 115 of the Penal Code. A civil claim has been raised for the nonmaterial damages suffered by the heirs of the deceased person.
III. Torture, mistreatment, excessive use of force, inhuman and degrading treatment by law-enforcing organs and citizens
In 2002, the Roma continued to be the most frequent
victim of torture and excessive use of force and firearms on the part of
law-enforcing organs. According to data of the Bulgarian
New cases of 2002.
In the year, many signals were received from Roma on excessive use of physical force and firearms on the part of law-enforcing organs, as in many cases the purpose was the extraction of confessions.
On the case, the Human
Rights Project received answers from the Ministry of internal Affairs, the
Regional Directorate of Internal Affairs in Kyustendil, and the Military
District Prosecutor’s Office of Sofia. The first letter states that on
With the situation so described, it becomes easy to explain the circumstances stated in the letter from the Regional Directorate of Internal Affairs in Kyustendil. It claims that in the course of the check ‘the complainant withdraws the complaint by his own will, in declaring that the claims in it do not correspond to reality, due to which the check is interrupted’.
The Military District Prosecutor of Sofia informs that after a preliminary check, an order has been issued to refuse to start a penal procedure on the grounds of Art. 21(1)1 of the Penal Code.
As in other years, the year 2002 was not without mass police raids in Roma neighborhoods accompanied by brutal and degrading attitude on the part of the policemen.
In the answer from the Regional Directorate of Internal Affairs of Pleven, the following explanations were given concerning the detained objects: ‘The taken objects started to be returned to their owners several days after their seizing.’ (SIC!) In relation to the claim of mistreatment of one of the victims, the police states the following: ‘As to the claims of one of the persons that he was treated cruelly, I can declare it categorically to you that he was transported to the Second District Police Office by employees of the police of Sofia in uniform, due to which the claims cannot be proven.’ Not less interesting is the explanation of the director of the Regional Directorate of Internal Affairs of Pleven regarding the illegal detainment: ‘The stay of those brought to the Second District Police Office is not a detainment; work was done with them, they gave explanations.’
There are numerous complaints about police employees working in police offices in the Roma neighborhoods.
Many such signals were
received about the actions of the local policemen in the Nadezhda district of
the town of
In 2002, many cases were recorded of illegal use of firearms and auxiliary tools by forest guards.
In the same time, there is not a single check in the system of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, done upon a signal of the Human Rights Project, that has finished by a conclusion that a police employee acted illegally. In the enormous majority of cases, the answers of the Ministry and its regional offices laconically state that the check done after the signal has established that the policemen acted in accordance with the Internal Affairs Act. This leaves the impression that such checks are not done at all or that they are only done formally. The conclusion also imposes itself that the Ministry of Internal Affairs is more inclined to investigate violations and impose disciplinary punishments when the victims are Bulgarians than when they are Roma (see the case in Kostinbrod in the report of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee), which in its turn speaks of an existing institutional discrimination against the Roma in Bulgaria.
In 2002 there were cases when Roma were attacked and mistreated by groups of racist citizens.
In the end of February 2002, the National Council of Ethnic and Demographic Issues at the Council of Ministers created a working group consisting of representatives of human rights NGOs, representatives of the Council of Ministers, and of separate ministries. The working group prepared a draft proposal for a Discrimination Prevention Act whose submitter to the National Assembly became the Council of Ministers. The draft law passed through four parliamentary commissions in the end of 2002 but despite this, by the end of March 2003 he was not brought to the first reading in the plenary hall.
This draft law was produced
as a result of the dialog that took place between the Government and the NGOs
in accordance with the requirements of the respective directives of the
European Union and the regulations concerning the norm creation procedures in
The draft law takes into account the achievements of the European legal doctrine and practice in the sphere of protection from discrimination and is in conformity with the commitments taken by the Bulgarian Government with the Framework for the Equal Integration of the Roma in the Bulgarian Society, as adopted in April 1999, especially with regard to item 1 of the Framework Program which requires the creation of a specialized independent state organ for the protection from discrimination.
The draft law proposes a
unified, codified and exhaustive anti-discrimination system having the
potential to really limit existing discrimination and, with the help of state
coercion, to guarantee the observation of the principle of equal treatment. The
purpose of the draft law is to create an independent specialized state organ –
a Commission for the Protection from Discrimination – which, within the
framework of an expeditious procedure, would provide effective protection from
discrimination. On the contrary, an abstract framework regulation would
contribute nothing to the existing (and scattered in the different normative
acts) prohibitions and discrepant definitions of discrimination which are in
fact dead clauses of the Bulgarian legislation. In the current normative
As to the civil defense from
discrimination, as far as we know, there has been so far one case in
Despite some progress in the production and passing of a law providing protection in cases of discrimination, the Bulgarian legislation did not obtain it. No serious legislative development can be noted either with regard to the introduction of provisions concerning discrimination in other normative acts. Even after the few amendments (Art. 2 and Art. 23 of the Employment Encouragement Act, Art. 3 of the Social Support Act), the normative prohibition of discrimination continues to be a mere declaration and is inapplicable in practice. There was no success in the attempt, through conducting a labor suit, to get the court to issue a verdict on the existence of discrimination under Art. 8(3) of the Labor Code.
In December 2002 the Human Rights Project, as a co-organizer together with the National Council of Ethnic and Demographic Issues, carried out a series of seminars with the participation of judges, prosecutors, attorneys and employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The seminars presented the draft Discrimination Prevention Act, submitted by the Council of Ministers in the National Assembly, the directives of the European Union concerning equal treatment and the protection from discrimination, the existing anti-discrimination norms in Bulgarian law and the judicial practice on anti-discrimination suits.
In 2002, as well as in previous years, numerous cases were registered of discriminatory treatment of Roma on the part of owners of restaurants and places of public access. In practice, in most Bulgarian towns there are places of which it is known that they have non-admittance of Roma as their policy. In most cases, racist treatment is concealed by statements that the restaurant is a private club, that there are no free places etc.
By a decision of
On the suits which Donka Manova and Stoyanka Tacheva from
In 2002, the practice of many years continued of health care institutions to isolate the Roma in them from other citizens.
Thus in 2001 and 2002 Roza Anguelova, Irina Ilieva, Draga Kirilova and Gergana Hristova went, at different dates, to the St. Sophia birth clinic where they gave birth to their children. All of them were accommodated in room No. 15 at the 5 floor and in the room next to the nurses room at the 2 floor, known to patients and to the medical staff as the ‘Gypsy rooms’. All women being in these rooms during the stay of Roza Anguelova, Irina Ilieva, Draga Kirilova and Gergana Hristova were exclusively Roma women. During that period, no Bulgarian woman was accommodated in these rooms. The conditions in the so-called ‘Gypsy rooms’ where all Roma women are accommodated are different – worse – than the conditions in the other rooms of the birth clinic where only Bulgarian women are accommodated. The HRP defines the separation from the other patients at St. Sophia on the basis of their ethnicity as ethnic segregation and declares that leaving them, so separated on an ethnic basis, under conditions worse than those under which most patients are put, represents racial discrimination.
Some progress has been recorded as regards the anti-discrimination measures at the level of municipalities. In 2001 the Human rights Project initiated the preparation and presentation to the attention of the municipal councils in several Bulgarian towns of proposals for amendments to municipal decrees with the purpose to include provisions forbidding discrimination on an ethnic basis on the territory of the respective municipality and introducing administrative responsibility for violating such provisions.
The need for this initiative arose as a result of the many signals, received by the Human Rights Project, about discriminatory treatment in providing services, as well as of the absence of adequate mechanisms for protection from discrimination.
The proposals prepared by the Human Rights Project planned the introduction of a ban on discrimination in different spheres of public life: services, town transport, advertising, and activities related to the protection of public order on the territory of the municipality. For the violation of these bans, fines were planned to be imposed. These proposals were presented to the attention of municipal councils in Sofia, Kyustendil, Levski, Petrich, Shoumen etc. In January 2002 the Municipal Council of Lom adopted amendments in its decrees and regulations, incorporating the proposals made by the Human Rights Project.
By Decision No. 592 of
In 2002, no effective legislative
measures were taken to improve the access to free legal advice of people who do
not have the possibility to pay a lawyer in the cases when their basic rights
have been violated or threatened. The Penal Procedure Code provides that a
lawyer should be provided by the court to certain categories of defendants and
accused; however, this in many cases is ineffective, as the officially assigned
attorneys in practice do not exert even basic procedural rights of the legal
counsel or the defendant. Thus e.g. in 2002 the Sliven District Court sentenced
Tenyo Raychev, a Rom from
In 2002 again, in the streets of many Bulgarian towns one could see graffiti saying ‘Gypsies, die!’, “Gypsies into soap’ and others in the same vein. Like before, these graffiti become more frequent around 20 April, the birthday of Hitler. In the internet there are many sites with an openly anti-Roma content, as well as discussion clubs and forums. However, as was mentioned above, hate speech in the printed media became less.
In 2002, the authorities
actively obstructed the protests of Roma in
In 2002, some steps were made toward the protection of the Roma cultural identity.
For the first time, the Ministry of Culture and some municipalities (Shoumen, Lom) included the traditional Roma holidays Vassilitsa and the International Roma Day (8 April) in their official cultural calendars. The National Council of Ethnic and Demographic Issues granted funds for the celebration of the International Roma Day. This was also done by some municipalities.
Some theaters (the Dramatic Theatre of Montana) staged plays in Romany. The actors are mostly Roma children.
The publication of Romany press stayed almost entirely in the sphere of financing by NGOs or foreign governmental organizations. The same is valid for the translations of books on Roma themes and in Romany.
Some culture clubs (Bulg. chitalishte) located in Roma neighborhoods received subsidies from the state budget. On this account, however, it was found out that culture clubs located on Roma neighborhoods receive less financing than culture clubs located elsewhere, irrespective of the fact that in the area of the former ones live more people than in that of the latter ones.
In 2002, the Ministry of
Culture supported financially and organizationally the participation of the Sayme Roma music band at the works Roma
The Bulgarian National Television broadcast a series of shows concerning the Roma themes and implemented by a Roma team – the Spaces monthly show within the Together program. The Hristo Botev program of the Bulgarian National Radio broadcast the Ethnoses show. In 2002, however, no public media included into its program shows in Romany.
In 2002, the most numerous complaints against actions of administration remained the ones concerning the payment of social welfare money. Along with the most trivial cause for that – the absence of respective funds in budgets – the HRP registered some more alarming signals. There are numerous complaints from the practical inaccessibility of the information about the conditions and requirements with which those needing welfare money must comply. These are most often cases of heartlessness and hostile attitude in the administration in the services of social support towards the Roma applying for welfare money. The problem is also aggravated by the dynamic changes in the legislation concerning the sphere of social support.
In 2002 again, in cases when Roma succeeded to provide themselves a living in working within a work contract, they remained the most vulnerable and unprivileged victim of the voluntarism of the employers.
Along with the numerous
cases when ethnically motivated reasons stand behind the dismissal of Roma,
many cases were registered when Roma have been subjected by their employer to
degrading and inhuman conditions of work. The Roma of the municipal street-cleaning
Especially striking was the case when Veneta Ribarova, president of the Life and Justice Foundation, domed to hunger the families of nearly 200 Roma workers in the village of Dolni Tsibar, region of Montana, by refusing to pay them the reward for the work they had done during several months on a seasonal employment project implemented by the foundation of Ribarova. In an ill-intended and ungrounded manner Ribarova dismissed 43 workers ‘for breach of discipline’, and only the interference of the Human Rights Project, by legal assistance, helped those people to be liberated from their contract relations with the foundation of Ribarova and to receive social welfare from the Labor Bureau.
In the late autumn of 2002, there was a pilot start, and in 2003 will be the large deployment, of a program of the Ministry of Labor and Social Support entitled ‘From Social Care to Providing Employment’. There are still no generalized data on how the program develops, moreover that, as it was mentioned above, no statistics are taken of employment and unemployment on an ethnic criterion, and the data on this issue are based on research and estimations. In the press, however, there were many publications demonstrating that in a number of places this program is not well administered, projects are made formally and often the work activity is not provided with elementary hygiene, heating, and other conditions.
In 2002, the advocacy program of the HRP continued its work in the following main directions: dissemination of information on cases of violated rights of Roma and advocacy before institutions for the implementation of the Framework Program for the integration of the Roma.
important part of the activity of the HRP continued to be initiatives for civil
and administrative training of Roma experts working in municipal and regional
administrations. The advocacy was successful for the adoption of municipal
anti-discrimination provisions in several municipalities. The HRP also took part
in the production and adoption of a municipal program or the Roma in
priority of the advocacy program in 2002 was the continuation and development
of the political training of young people of Roma identity through the
In 2002, the HRP continued
its work with representatives of district police offices in areas with
concentrated Roma population. The organization was a successful mediator for
the solution of conflicts between the Roma population and the local authorities
in the cities of
In 2002, the HRP produced
and presented the first 75-minute fiction film ‘Sali’s Life’. The team of the
film was composed mostly by Roma: scenario writers, camera operators, and the
Roma theater group “Antipyn’. The premiere of the film took place on
A. Activities related to the implementation of the Framework Program
National conference for the review of the progress of the Framework Program, November 2002:
The idea of the event was to create a dialog between the Roma experts and responsible representatives of the Government. In order to fulfill their purpose, the organizers invited the President, the Prime Minister, and several ministers. Invited were also the heads of parliamentary groups as well as those of basic commissions in the National Assembly.
Unfortunately, the highest representatives of the Government who took part in the conference was the secretary of the National Council for Ethnic and Demographic Issues, Mr. Mihail Ivanov. He stated repeatedly that the institution he presides has no power to resolve the problems that the Framework Program outlines. The absence of the invited ministers and heads of commissions in the National Assembly was taken by the participants in the conference as a new sign or the absence of a state policy toward the improvement of the situation of the Roma in the country.
The conference was opened by a speech by Mr. Rumian Rusinov., chairman of the board of the Human Rights Project and director of the Program of Roma Participation at the Open Society Institute of Budapest. In his speech entitled ‘the Framework Program Between Illusions and reality’ he outlined the situation with the implementation of the program three and a half years after the previous government adopted it.
He stated that it was not by
chance that the conference took part inthe eve of the meeting in Prague at
which Bulgaria received an invitation to enter NATO, because NATO is not just a
military union but also a system of values among which the observation of the
rights of minorities has a special place. From the perspective of these values,
the current situation of the Roma minority in
Mr. Rusinov presented in short the results of the monitoring of the HRP on the implementation of the Framework Program (with which practically all other Roma speakers agreed). Laconically,the state policy towards the Roma may be characterized as:
- a policy without a long-term strategy to resolve at least the most grave problems;
- a policy without internal coherence; the Government works on the Roma problems in a piecemeal manner, mostly when social tension increases and gaps need urgently to be filled;
- the Government works like a private foundation: it implements relatively small projects on different issues instead of working in a long-term perspective with a clear plan;
- the solution of the Roma problem is concentrated between the hands of the National Council for Ethnic and Demographic Issues which has no power to issue corresponding provisions and legal norms. It is within the system of the Ministry which is responsible for extraordinary situations;
- while in the previous Government the National Council for Ethnic and Demographic Issues was a part of the responsibilities of a Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Veselin Metodiev), its status is now considerably lower;
- this Government, like the previous one, has not adopted the amendments to the Penal Code as required by the Framework Program;
- this Government, like the previous one, has not begun to introduce Roma language, Roma culture and history into schools;
- this Government, like the previous one, has not created the fund for the encouraging the employment of Roma, nor has it introduced the concept of ‘vulnerable’ ethnic group into the sphere of social support, as it is written in the Framework Program.
The only progress, he said, is the preparation of a Discrimination Prevention Act and also in the Instruction of the Minister of Education and Science on the integration of the children from the minorities into the school system.
Regional trainings of Roma experts in municipal administrations
Another basic activity of public pressure and advocacy for the development of working local programs on the priorities of the Framework Program in 2002 was the organization of a series of trainings of Roma employed in municipal administrations. In this relation, the HRP carried out in the period from March to October 2002 six such trainings into which were included activists, municipal and regional expert, and mayors of Roma identity, from the regions of Varshets, Blagoevgrad, Rousse, Varna, Haskovo, and Silistra.
The objective of the
trainings was to make the Roma working in local administration, as well as the
Roma organizations cooperating with local authorities, acquainted with
successful practices in developing local programs for the elevation of the
status of the Roma. The trainings included presenting to the participants the
existing international documents guaranteeing nondiscriminatory treatment to
citizens and some of the municipal anti-discrimination decrees adopted so far
The meetings included presentation and discussion of the program ‘Access of Roma to Charity’ – an international program of the British organization named European Dialogue, coordinated for Bulgaria by the HRP and applied by the Romani Baht Foundation in Sofia, on the territory of the Krasna Polyana municipality, and by the Roma Lom Foundation in the town of Lom.
The concluding part of the trainings included also the creation of projects on cooperative work between several municipalities and the Roma organizations active on their territory. More than 150 people took part in the six trainings.
2002, we carried out four meetings with representatives of the police, NGOs,
and local Roma leaders. They took place in the towns of
Together with presenting the international standards of the application of the legislation related to human rights and the observance of the public order, the following questions were also discussed:
- the unique role of the police as the only institutions having the right to apply force, and its importance or the prevention and interruption of every act of racism, xenophobia, violence and discrimination;
- at every meeting, it was stressed that the police performs its functions in a multiethnic environment and this is why it must apply the correct approaches to the ethnic variations, in order to achieve social equality and integration of minorities;
- special attention was given to the need of mutual interweaving of effort in order to implement the cooperation between the police, the NGOs, the local authorities, the local leaders of Roma organizations and of other minority groups, since it is a prerequisite of the prevention or racism, intolerance and discrimination;
- at these trainings, the question was also discussed how it is best to attract for professional work in the police representatives of the Roma minority and the other minority groups with the purpose to improve the relations between the police and the local minority communities and to improve the work also in protecting the public order in a multicultural environment;
- the focus of attention at these meetings was, as it was mentioned above, the recruitment of Roma to work in the police. Besides what was already mentioned, this coming of Roma forces into the police service may bring positive results in many other aspects: the establishment of a positive image of the police, the struggle against racial prejudice within the police itself;
- the participants in the meetings agreed that the participation of Roma in the police should not mean lowering the requirements but, on the contrary, establishing equal chances for everybody;
- as to the strengths and weaknesses of appointing Roma policemen mostly in their native localities or there where they live permanently, it was stressed that this would increase the trust of local communities in the police as an institution. Besides that, everybody agreed with the need to guarantee to Roma employees in the police equal chances to make a career as compared to the others. This can be done best in their native places since the trust of the local community encourages the effort of the employee. It is especially important for the local Roma staff to make it clear that they can rise in their career higher than the level of neighborhood inspector if they satisfy the respective qualificational requirements;
- many times, in the process of discussion, the question was raised on the trust of Roma in the police. The absence of transparency, the petty protectionism and the absence of responsibility, as well as the lack of desire for cooperation with the purpose to prevent or interrupt ethnically motivated negative actions, were pointed out as the most frequent motives of mistrust;
- at the meetings, there were also discussions on the draft Discrimination Prevention Act. It was pointed out that this future law is a powerful means to provide equal chances in the police in the employment of Roma (and generally of representatives of the minorities) for work in the police.
Finally, the series of meetings and trainings formulated the following recommendations:
A. Police officers should be
specially rained for the investigation of discriminatory practice as well as
for adequate intervention in cases of racism (like the expulsion of the Roma
B. In the police itself, a control mechanism must be introduced for the prevention of racism and discrimination. This can be done by the ‘installation’ of a special normative procedure to help those who have some restraints to complain without fear in cases of discriminatory practices.
C. In every police office, there must be employees specialized in investigating cases of racist attitude. This would not mean that the other police employees are freed from the obligation to investigate racist or discriminatory incidents.
D. The police must inform the society on cases of racism and must not escape from acknowledging that this problem exists.
Municipal anti-discriminatory provisions
Since the beginning of 2001, the Human Rights Project began to propose to the municipal councils of some towns to develop, with its assistance, municipal decrees forbidding discrimination on the territory of the respective municipality. The need for such an initiative was dictated by the existence of many complaints about discriminatory treatment towards Roma in the access to public services, as well as about the absence of an adequate normative system regulating the struggle against discrimination as well as for the protection against discriminatory actions.
The initiative, conducted throughout thee whole year 2002 solely by the HRP’s own funds, aims at creating mechanisms of prevention of ethnically motivated discrimination.
Our proposals concern the introduction of bans on discrimination in the sphere of public services, town transport, advertising, and in the maintenance of public order in the respective towns. According to our proposals, the violation of bans on discrimination should be punished by a fine.
Our proposals were presented
to the attention of the municipal councils in
Into the decree regulating commercial activity, clauses were included forbidding owners and managers of public establishments like restaurants, cafes, bars etc. to perform ethnic discrimination.
It was written into the said decree that the unequal treatment of persons of different ethnicity as well as the refusal of admittance is prohibited. Also prohibited is to offer t some persons more unfavorable conditions of service, such as degrading or insulting behavior motivated by the customer’s ethnicity. Owners became also obliged to instruct their staff in the spirit of observing these requirements.
The decree concerning the activity of advertisement on the territory of the municipality already contained a prohibition of showing publicity materials suggesting a difference, exclusion, limitation or privileges based on ethnic or racial appurtenance or identity.
A similar decree was adopted
also in the town of
We also had talks with other
municipal councils – in Sho,men, Kyustendil,
In 2002, the third edition
started of this Academy. Along with the training of 15 young people with high
school education or uncompleted university education, in 2002 also the
preparation started of 30 people having university education as Masters of
Politology in the
The participants in the
political course attend all lectures of the speciality of ‘Politology’, they
produce term projects, they have practical training in the headquarters of the
main political forces. In the course of these meetings it became clear that the
political forces do not have a clear vision about the solution of the Roma
In 2002, the HRP regularly published information on its work in the quarterly bulletin of the organization ‘The Rights of the Roma in FOCUS’. The organization continued to produce informations and opinions published in periodicals also of other NGOs – the Objective bulletin of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, the Ethnoreporter journal of the Foundation ‘Interethnic initiative for Human Rights’, the Roma periodicals Drom Dromendar, Akana and Andral, etc.
We periodically informed the media on current initiatives of the HRP as well as on cases of violated rights of Roma. Publications and informations prepared by our Advocacy Program have been printed in the mainstream daily newspapers 24 Chassa, Dnevnik, Republika, Sega, and Monitor.
The HRP continued to
participate with opinions and comments also in some of the shows having a high audience rating of the
national electronic media – the Bulgarian National Television, the Bulgarian
National Radio, and bTV. The organization published information on its
activities also through the Internet publications of Bulgarian and
international NGOs. In 2002, the organization was a partner in two
international projects aiming at equal participation of minorities in
Second national conference ‘Minorities in the Media: Media Polices and Practices’; March 2002
The Human Rights Project presented a code of correct representation of ethnic minorities in the Bulgarian media.
The discussion concentrated on the following topics:
‘The image of minorities in national and local newspapers: results of a research done upon an order by the Bulgarian Media Coalition’. The speaker was Emil Cohen.
‘Freedom of Media Against Hate Speech: the Limits of the Freedom of Speech’. The speaker was the legal consultant of HRP Ivaylo Ganchev.
‘Minorities in the mainstream Bulgarian electronic media: the experience of the Council for Electronic Media’. The speakers were Assoc. Prof. Margarita Pesheva, chair of the Council for Electronic Media, and Georgi Lozanov, member of the Council for Electronic Media.
‘The need for an intercultural training of journalists’. The speaker was Miss Deenichina, lecturer in the Faculty of Journalism.
‘Honest and impartial representation of ethnic minorities in the Bulgarian media – a project for a Code of Bulgarian Journalists’. The speakers were Kamelia Anguelova, media consultant of the Human Rights Project, and Kalina Bozeva, president of the Foundation ‘Interethnic Initiative for Human rights’.
Many instances of hate speech were discussed, among them some of the Bulgarian National Television. There also were many questions to Mrs. Pesheva and Mr. Lozanov concerning the practice of the Council for Electronic Media in monitoring and observing the requirements of the Radio and Television Act with regard to the minorities and more especially how it reacts to flagrant examples of hate speech directed more especially against Jews and Roma in the Bulgarian National Television and the Bulgarian National Radio.
The round table finished by the agreement of the participating journalists to distribute the Code among their colleagues.
The Human Rights Project and
the Net Radio implemented in 2002 a joint talk show entitled Amalipe (‘Friendship’). The show was
broadcast every Friday, starting from April, in the format of a one-hour talk
show facilitated by Ivan Randov, a Roma radio journalist. He worked in
cooperation with Anton Mitov, a Bulgarian, well known radio journalist form the
NET Radio, and Miss Kamelia Anguelova, media consultant of the HRP. The show
introduced to the audience the life of the Roma, their traditions and culture.
A priority of the show and its creators were the discussions on acute themes
from the public or Roma life. In the period from 26 April to
In 2002 the Human Rights
Project had many participations in international conferences in
We are in constant
cooperation with the leading Bulgarian and international nongovernmental human
rights and Roma organizations: the Bulgarian
In 2002 the HRP-produced
film ‘I Am a Gypsy, I Plead Guilty’ won the first prize at a festival of Roma
 In the end of the year, the Ministry also issued a Strategy for the Integration of Children and School Students of the Minorities, and in the nearest future, there will be negotiations with the international financial institutions over the funds needed for desegregation.
is known, desegregational projects, being one in 2002 in
to data of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, between 70 and 80% of the children
in the penitentiary boarding schools are Roma. See Krassimir Kanev et al. ‘First Steps: Evaluation of the
Nongovernmental Desegregation Projects in Six Towns of
 See ‘Ethnic Minorities in the Press’, a publication of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee and the Bulgarian Media Coalition, Sofia, 2002.
Ibid., p. 5-15. See also ‘Minorities in
the Media: Media Policies and Practices’, a publication of the Human Rights
The draft law introduces into
 On 25 February 2003, the most authoritative Bulgarian nongovernmental human rights organizations, as well as some international ones, addressed the Chairman of the National Assembly Prof. Ognyan Gerdjikov and the Directorate on the Enlargement of the European Commission with an Open Letter in which they insisted on the acceleration of the adoption of the Discrimination Prevention Act, and they also insisted that the draft should be adopted in its original form. See ‘Objective’, a monthly journal of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, No. 96, February 2003, p. 18. On 8 April 203, the deputy chairman of the Movement for Rights and Freedom Lyuitfi Mestan, at a round table dedicated to the Roma holiday, stated that ‘the MRF will no longer tolerate the procrastination in the adoption of this law and will exert pressure on its coalitional partner, the National Movement ‘Simeon the Second’ to accelerate the passing of the draft law through the plenary hall'’ (For more details see below the section on ‘The Right to Nondiscriminatory Treatment’.)
The Framework Program was accepted by 75 Roma organizations in 1998-9. ON
 Naturally, it is not easy for unemployed and people relying mostly on welfare money to pay for their electricity. According to data of the World Bank, unemployment among Roma has reached 70% in 2001 (quoted from ‘Information on the Policy of the Bulgarian Government for the Improvement of the Situation of the Roma Population in Bulgaria’, a material of the National Council on Ethnic and Demographic Issues as of November 2002, p. 1).
 On p. 11 of the ‘Information on the Policy of the Bulgarian Government for the Improvement of the Situation of the Roma Population in Bulgaria’, one reads: ‘It must be noted that, according to the normative requirements, the administrative statistics of the employment bureaus does not contain information on the ethnicity of the unemployed persons. For this reason, no exact data can be presented on the persons of Roma ethnicity who are included in the separate programs.’ Here, above and below, the quantitative data and the explanations to them are presented in accordance with this ‘Information…’.
This sum is quoted in Iglika Goranova, ‘Bulgarian Helsinki Committee Slanders
Bulgaria on Minorities’, the Novinar
 See Jean-Pierre Liegeois, Roma, Gypsies, Nomads, Sofia: Litavra, 2000, p. 35.
 By official data, it was 87 leva per month per person in 2001.
 The data are taken from: Andrey Ivanov et al., The Roma in Central and Eastern Europe: Avoiding the Dependency Trap, UNDP, Bnratislava, 2002, p. 39-41.
 Ibid., p. 40.
 Ibid., p. 44.
 See Stanimir Petrov, ‘Amendments in Punishment Execution Act Restrict Access to Prisons’, in Objectiv, a monthly publication of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, December 2002.
 In the ‘Information…’, quoted many times above, the National Council of Ethnic and Demographic Issues declares that it has sponsored the publication of the Akana and Drom Dromendar newspapers in Romany by 15 000 leva.
Among there are the Zrankovs case, the electricity riots in