Annual report of the Human rights Project on the situation of the human rights of the Roma in Bulgaria in 2002


Part One: Situation of the basic 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 Bulgaria.

            The 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.[1] For the first time since the start of the first desegregation project three years ago in Vidin, a real prospect has emerged for desegregation to surpass the sphere of NGOs and become a cause of the state.[2]

            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,[3] 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).

            In the summer of 2002, we witnessed a precedent – the compulsory expulsion of the infamous Zrankov family out of the town of Vidin. The group had about 60 people among whom criminals liable to be indicted but also about 30 minor children. The police, the regional administration, MPs and even the Minister of Internal Affairs, instead of providing protection of the rights of the innocent there where they live, found it most suitable to make them move from one place to another all around Bulgaria.

            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,[4] 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.[5]

            During the year 2002, a draft Discrimination Prevention Act was composed with the active participation of NGOs, including the Human Rights Project.[6] 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 this happens, Bulgaria may have an anti-discrimination law but it will be as ineffective as the currently acting provisions in many laws. In practice, they are dead, do not work, are not applied.[7]

            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.

            On 18 November 2002, the Human Rights Project, together with other Roma organizations, convoked its second conference for the review of the progress of the Framework Program for the Equal Integration of the Roma in the Bulgarian Society.[8] More than a hundred representatives of tens of Roma NGOs took part in it. The general conclusion of the forum was that the progress in the implementation of the program is too little, that some work has been done but it is rather piecemeal, that there is no integral vision on the fulfillment of the stipulations of the Program (for more details see below the section on ‘Implementation of the Framework Program’).

            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.’

            In 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.[9] The uproars were most significant in the Stolipinovo neighborhood of the city of Plovdiv in the winter of 2002. There were protests against cutting the power supply also in Bourgas, Vidin, Lom, Pernik, Silistra, Sliven, Shumen. Since the electricity was stopped in whole town areas, several tens of Bulgarian families still living in Stolipinovo requested from the municipality of Plovdiv to provide them with municipal houses and transfer them at its own expense. A hunger strike was started in front of the municipal building in support of this request which had a great support among the ultranationalists in Plovdiv who collected signatures in support of the strikers. In their turn, 1200 Roma, in another subscription, requested that they should be moved away too. In the summer, the Municipal Council in Plovdiv decided to accommodate in municipal houses 60 families of Bulgarians from Stolipinovo. The requests of the Roma were ignored.

            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


            Quoted above was the evaluation of the conference of 18 November 2002 on the implementation of the Framework Program, as well as the almost analogous statements made by the European Commission. It could not be denied that the Government does take steps in fulfilling its obligations under the Program. In February 2003, the Government’s information service announced that over 12 million Euro have been allocated for the integration of the Roma minority in Bulgaria. In the ‘Information on the Policy of the Bulgarian Government for the Improvement of the Situation of the Roma Population in Bulgaria’ of the National Council on Ethnic and Demographic Issues as of November 2002, and in the specifying information as of the beginning of 2003 ‘Projects on the PHARE Program Approved and Financed by the European Commission That Are Being Implemented by the National Council on Ethnic and Demographic Issues for the Period of 2000 to 2003’, 6 large projects are listed in the PHARE program of the EU, some of which have subprojects that are in fact independent. Thus it is seen that research activities have been done in the sphere of urbanization (160 000 Euro), of the health state of the Roma (100 000 Euro), of ethnic tolerance in the army and the armed forces (no data on the project cost), as well as a program of the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy on ‘Training and Technical Support for the Development of a Program for the Integration of the Roma Minority’ (no data on the program cost). Besides that, 210 000 Euro have been granted for providing assistance in the adoption of the Discrimination Protection Act. Employees of the protective police in five cities have received, in nine courses, training in the culture, history, and traditions of the Roma minority. Two courses have been carried out with police officers and one workshop with heads of police offices for the ‘improvement of skills in working in a multicultural environment’.

            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.

            In 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 city of Stara Zagora and the Iztok neighborhood in Pazardjik. It is reported that the municipalities in Sofia and Plovdiv work on different stages of projects for the improvement of infrastructures and the construction of houses for Roma. Over 50 houses have been built in Pazardjik and Plovdiv. The overall cost of the projects in Sofia and Plovdiv is over 18 000 000 Euro (there are no data as to when these projects have started and when they are planned to finish; it is only known that 1 400 000 Euro have been used in Sofia and that 40 houses have been built in Plovdiv – within the total number of 51 houses). Finally, the National Council on Ethnic and Demographic Issues works on a project for ‘Urbanization and Social Development of Areas with Minority Population in an Unequal Situation’ at a cost of more than 6 000 000 Euro.

            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.[10] 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.

            In 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 23 October 2003) for the creation of a Roma theater.

            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.[11]


            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 government. The 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 Bulgaria, the project will start with a delay of one year.


            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,[12] 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[13] (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.[14] 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),[15] about 40% of the Roma are systematically hungry, 25% have nothing to eat at least one or two days per month.[16]

            This 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 village of Karapelit, region of Dobrich, when two people died from the explosion of a canon shell that they found in the area of an unguarded military firing ground and took in order to sell to a scrap merchant.


            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.

            On 13 June 2002, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg issued a decision on the complaint of the Bulgarian Roma woman Asya Anguelova against Bulgaria. The court decided unanimously that the state of Bulgaria has violated four articles of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Basic Freedom: Art. 2 (right to life), Art. 3 (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment), Art. 5 (right to freedom and security), and Art. 13 (right to effective remedy before a national judicial body). The complainant was compensated for nonmaterial damages and for the legal procedure costs.

            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.

            Early in the morning of 29 January 1996, Anguel Zabchikov, a 17 years old Rom from Razgrad, died in a hospital after being detained for several hours in the Regional Police Office in the town of Razgrad. The complaints of his mother to prosecutors of all instances had no result. The additional investigation was also interrupted since, according to the investigative organs, ‘it was not possible to establish how the wounds have been inflicted’.

            In 1997, the mother of the deceased Anguel Zabchikov, with the assistance of the Human Rights Project and the European Roma Rights Center in Budapest, lodged a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. In his personal opinion on the decision, judge Bomkopini referred to the information and interpretations on the case as received from the Human Rights Project.

            On 28 February 2002, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg announced as admissible the complaint of Anelia Nachkova and others against Bulgaria. The complaint concerns the case with the murder of the Roma Anguelov and Petkov on 19 June 1996 in the village of Lesura, done by officers of the military police in an attempt to capture them.

            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.

            On 21 March 2002 the procedure was suspended on the grounds that it was impossible to establish which of the five policemen who pursued Mustafa had produced the lethal shot.

            On 26 June 2002 the Sofia Military District Court cancelled that order.

            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 Helsinki Committee, the complaints from Roma defendants about illegal actions on the part of these organs are three times more numerous than complaints coming from Bulgarian defendants.[17] This confirms the finding, also made in previous years, that, among the employees of law-enforcing institutions, there exist deeply rooted discrimination stereotypes concerning the Roma.


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 21 August 2002 Stefan Trayanov from Kyustendil was called to the police. There he was put in handcuffs and three policemen with a police car brought him to a deserted area near to the village of Zhilentsi. They took him there out of the car and hit him with wooden sticks, kicked him and tied him with handcuffs at a branch of a tree so as not to touch the ground, after which one of the policemen would pull him down. All the time they insisted that the victim should confess thefts. During the bneating, Trayanov several times lost consciousness. Later they left him in a helpless state beside the road out of the town. All traumas are documented and described in detail in a forensic medical certificate.

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 21 August 2002 Trayanov was present in the police at 11.20 h. and was set free at 11.40 h. and that the claims in the complaint were not confirmed by the check. In the same time, it is stated that the victim was detained under guard by an order of the Regional Court of Kyustendil upon an accusation of theft. The preliminary investigation was started at the same day, 21 August 2002, and the detainment took place a day or two later.

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.

On 7 January 2002 Alyosha Yordanov from the town of Valchedrym, region of Montana, was detained in the police office of the town where police employees gave him a beating in order to make him confess a theft. Despite the explicit insistence of the victim that a doctor should certify his state, he was refused a medical examination.

On 3 April 2002 Krum Mihaylov and Georgi Filkov fron the village of Bukovlak, region of Pleven, were stopped on the road by a police jeep with six policemen who demanded from them an explanation about some red Moskvitch car. Evidently dissatisfied by the answers, the policemen tied up the two victims and beat them, after which detained them shortly in the police. The wounds received are certified by forensic medical certificates.

On 8 November 2002 Marin Atanasov from the town of Kotel was attacked for no reason by a policemen from the town. Due to the beating, the victim had his skull broken, which was established by medical documents.


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.


ON 13 November 2002 at about 5.30 A.M., a group of masked and plainclothed policemen started a raid of perquisition in houses of Roma in the village of Bohot, municipality of Pleven. The searched 19 houses of Roma without a due permit from a court under the Penal Procedure Court or without presenting it to the dwellers of the houses. They took and have not returned so far different objects (mobile phones, gold, other household items) which are not objects of crime. The policemen acted brutally, and as a result of their actions there is destroyed or damaged property in the houses. They detained 12 persons without a police order and without informing them on the grounds of the detainment. No explanations were requested from them later. The policemen exerted physical violence on a large number of persons. There are data that the participants in the raid put their guns against the head of a one-year child and against the breast of the child’s mother. They used firearms against one of the victims, Sergey Manolov, and ebat him cruelly.

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 Sliven. On a part of the cases, materials were published in the press. On 9 October 2002 Encho Dzhambazov from the Nadezhda district of Sliven was called to the room of the district policemen. There, he was hit several times in the face and pushed down to the ground by one of the policemen. The pretext was a sum of money that the victim owed to a supplier of the shops in the area.


In 2002, many cases were recorded of illegal use of firearms and auxiliary tools by forest guards.


On 11 September 2002 Stefan Nikolov, Petar Dimitrov and Borislav Ivanov from the town of Botevgrad were stopped by forest guards and gendarmes in the area called Vodenitsata near the town. After they did not show a permit to cut down trees, the victims were put in handcuffs and brought to the police office. During all the time from the arrest to the liberation from the police, the victim Stefan Nikolov was repeatedly and cruelly beaten by kicks and auxiliary tools.

On 27 December 2002 a forest guard beat Asen Dimov from Sliven and broke his leg, when Dimov was collecting dry wood with a permit for the forest of the village of Gavrailovo.


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.


On 2 February 2002 in Pazardjik, four Roma (Hristo Asenov, Dimitar Mihaylov, Dimitar Shekerov, Anguel Shekerov) were attacked and beaten by a group of citizens. The Roma were pursued by a car in the streets of the town, and the attackers shoot at them with firearms. Two of the victims were taken t a hospital with fire wounds on them. The preliminary investigation did not finish within the term ordered by the prosecutor.

On 16 April 2002, again in Pazardjik, Anguel Georgiev, Atanas Mihaylov, Metodi Andonov, Asen Asenov and Yosif Asenov, when going home from a finished Christian religious meeting at the town sports stadium, were attacked by a group of people. The attackers went off a jeep and started to address insults to the group of Roma with regard to their ethnicity. Near to the police school the attackers reached the victims and beat them cruelly with knuckle-dusters, baseball bats and steel chains. The Regional Prosecutor of Pazardjik issues an order of refusal to start a police procedure, stating that there were no data of a crime under Art. 162 or Art. 164 of the Penal Code.


IV. Right to nondiscriminatory treatment


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 Bulgaria. On the part of the Council of Ministers, the working group included specialists in legislative technique. The NGOs that took part in the creation of the draft contributed by expertise and practical knowledge and represented the interests of the groups whose rights they defend.

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 situation in Bulgaria, the legislator has fragmentarily and declaratively announced the ban on discrimination and has stopped there, without developing a due legal administrative mechanism of protection. Under the current law, there is no procedure of imposing administrative sanctions in cases of discrimination. The general procedure of imposing administrative punishments under the Administrative Violations and Punishments Act is not applicable in cases of discrimination because of the procedural prerequisite that an act of administrative violation should be issued prior. No such case is known in the Bulgarian administrative jurisdiction. The discrimination-related norms in the Penal Code are also inapplicable clauses. An illustration to this is a decision of the Supreme Court stating that an object of interpretive verdicts may only be such norms which have generated controversial or contradictory issues in their application by courts. The Plenum of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Bulgaria found that there have been no controversial or contradictory issues arising in the application of the provisions of Art. 162(1) of the Penal Code. ‘Moreover, there is no judicial practice at all in the application of these provisions.’

As to the civil defense from discrimination, as far as we know, there has been so far one case in Bulgaria on which the court has heard claims on discrimination and issued a verdict on them. In the other anti-discrimination suits on which there are court decisions, the court ignores the claims of ethnic discrimination, preferring to refer to the violation of other provisions. This reveals a poor knowledge of the legal mechanisms of protection against discrimination, ignoring the importance of the problem, as well as, most of all, legislative gaps.

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.


On 26 January 2002 the Human Rights Project found out that restaurants in the center of the town of Samokov usually refuse to admit and serve customers of Roma identity. In most cases, the staff willingly explains to customers who are not Roma that Roma are not served in principle in their establishment.

By a decision of 30 June 2002, the District Court of Kazanlak sentenced the company exploiting the swimming pool in the village of Yagoda, region of Stara Zagora, because on 22 July 2001 the company’s employees denied access to the pool to four Roma solely on the grounds of their ethnicity. The defendant company was sentenced to pay to the plaintiffs a compensation for nonmaterial damages done to them. This is the first and so far only case in Bulgaria on which the court has found ethnic discrimination. In 2003, we expect a decision to the same effect from the Stara Zagora District Court on an analogous case.

On the suits which Donka Manova and Stoyanka Tacheva from Sofia brought up in 2001 with claims of ethnic discrimination in their dismissal from the defendant company, the court by a decision of 2002 ignored the claims of ethnic discrimination and preferred to refer to the violation of other provisions in order to cancel their dismissal. This reveals a poor knowledge of legal mechanisms for the protection of discrimination, ignorance of the importance of htheproblem, as well as legislative gaps.


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 18 June 2002, the Municipal Council of Shoumen adopted amendments to its Decree on Commercial Activity whereby it introduced a ban on the restriction of access to people into commercial establishments on the grounds of their ethnic or racial identity. The same Decree introduced a prohibition on the distribution of advertisements displaying or suggesting difference, exclusion, limitation or preference based on ethnicity or race. Fines are provided for the violation of these provisions.


V. Right to Fair Procedure


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 Sliven, to prison for life. The sentence of the first instance entered into force since it was not appealed within the due term by the officially assigned attorney. A check by the HRP showed that there were grounds for appealing against the sentence and, despite that, the right to appeal was not exerted within the due term, because of the lack of interest in the officially assigned attorney.


VI. Hate speech, aggressive nationalism, and xenophobia


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.


VII. Freedom of peaceful gathering


In 2002, the authorities actively obstructed the protests of Roma in Plovdiv, Rousse and elsewhere. On 9 January a meeting at which Roma from Rousse protested against the unpayment of welfare money, was broken up by the police. When the Pope came in Plovdiv in May, the Roma neighborhoods were blocked by the police to prevent the Roma from getting out of there, so as not to disturb the visit by demonstrations. Such demonstrations could have happened in case of stopping the electricity. The Roma in this city and more especially in the Stolipinovo ghetto have protested ever since the winter by meetings against the power supply regime which was imposed on them.


VIII. Protection of cultural identity and originality


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[18] 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 festival in Moscow.

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.


IX. Providing social support on the part of the state


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 company of Sofia even conducted a strike on this occasion and also with the demand for an increase of wages. Signals were received on refusals of companies to pay to their Roma workers the due compensations on the state public insurance.

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.


Part Two: The Activity of the Human Rights Project in 2002


            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.

            An 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 Sofia.

            A priority of the advocacy program in 2002 was the continuation and development of the political training of young people of Roma identity through the Political Academy for Roma which the HRP has been implementing for the third year already. In 2002, the organization reached an agreement with the St. Kliment Ohridski university of Sofia for the creation of a M.A. program in political science and public administration for Roma students who have passed through training on the Political Academy for Roma in 2000 and 2001.

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 Plovdiv (the Stolipinovo neighborhood) and Kyustendil (the Izgrev neighborhood).

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 2 December 2002 in Sofia.


A. Activities related to the implementation of the Framework Program


National conference for the review of the progress of the Framework Program, November 2002:


            On 18 November 2002, the second national conference for the evaluation of the progress of the Framework Program took place. It was organized by the HRP in close cooperation with other Roma organizations: the Society for Coordination and Cooperation, the Kupate Roma Public Council, the United Roma Union, the Europa Confederation of Roma, and the Roma Democratic Union. More than 100 people representing the Roma organization from all over Builgaria, as well as the leading Roma intellectuals, took part in the conference. A greeting address was read from the part of the President of the Republic, Mr. Georgi Parvanov, as well as from Mr. Radi Naydenov, head of the office of Prime Mimnister Simeon Sakskoburggotski. Greetings were also presented by officials from the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Public Health, the Ministry of Territorial and Urban Planning, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Representatives of several embassies also took part in the conference. Mr. Mihail Ivanov, secretary of the National Council for Ethnic and Demographic Issues, also took part in the event.

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 Bulgaria in no way corresponds to the values of the alliance. He delineated the picture of a series of events which are signs not only of the worsening of the situation of the Roma but also of the absence of respective measures on the part of the Government with regard to overcoming the situation.[19] He, similarly to many others before him, stated that the Roma problem is a time-bomb.

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 in Bulgaria. The HRP also presented to the participants several models of successful cooperation between local authorities and Roma organizations, developed with the help of HRP.

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.


Training meetings with the police: the police as a municipally oriented structure


            In 2002, we carried out four meetings with representatives of the police, NGOs, and local Roma leaders. They took place in the towns of Varna, Blagoevgrad, Pazardjik, and Haskovo. Four trainings were organized within this project in cooperation with high officials of the regional directorates of the police in the four towns. Local NGOs also cooperated with us.

            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 from the village of Mechka and the clashes in Samokov).

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 Sofia and in towns like Lom and Levski. After animated consultations with the municipal councilors in Lom and thanks to the cooperation of the deputy mayor of Lom, the Rom Mr. Lalo Kamenov in January 2002, the municipal council adopted amendments in its decrees, including into them the proposals of the Human Rights Project.

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 Levski, upon our initiative.

We also had talks with other municipal councils – in Sho,men, Kyustendil, Pleven, Montana – on the possibility to adopt municipal anti-discriminatory decrees.


B. The Political Academy for Roma and the M.A. in Politology made jointly with the St. Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia


            The Roma minority in Bulgaria is not well represented in public life. A result of their being excluded from the process of decision-taking is that their interests are not adequately protected. The Roma movement in Bulgaria, formed in the last decade, requires an adequate and equal participation of the Roma in the public life. It thus prepares the basis for a new stage of the organization of the Roma community, namely the creation of political movements. This began to become more visible after 1999. The political development of the Roma movement requires experienced and prepared activists able to stand for their causes and well acquainted with the legal framework of the political life in Bulgaria. In order to meet the need for trained leaders able to be in the head of popular movements, the Human Rights Project organized in 2000 its first course for the training of Roma leaders, entitled Political Academy for Roma.

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 Sofia University, thanks to a contract concluded between us and the University.

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 problems in Bulgaria. As a result of the effort mostly of politically trained young people, the first Roma political coalition appeared at the elections in June 2001.


B. Work with the media, public campaigns and information activity


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 Europe in public media: ‘Seeing Roma Without Prejudices in Europe’ of the British organization Media Diversity Institute, and ‘Multicultural Net’ of the Dutch intercultural network MIRAMEDIA.


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.

            On 1 March 2002, we organized in Sofia a national round table on the theme of ‘Minorities in the Media: Media Polices and Practices’. More than 60 journalists and media representatives took part of them, including ones from nation-wide and regional printed and electronic media. Lecturers from the Faculty of Journalism and of the Council for Electronic Media also took part. There also were many representatives of the media of ethnic minorities.

            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.


Amalipe, the Roma show of the Human Rights Project and the Net Radio


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 30 September 2002, this show was on the air 28 times.


Participation in international forums. Cooperation with similar organizations


In 2002 the Human Rights Project had many participations in international conferences in Romania, Vienna, Strasbourg, London, Warsaw, Prague, Skopje.


We are in constant cooperation with the leading Bulgarian and international nongovernmental human rights and Roma organizations: the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, the Romani Bah Foundation, Bulgarian Lawyers for Human Rights, Interethnic Initiative for Human Rights, Ethnic Interrelations Project, European Roma Rights Center, the Roma Participation Program of the Open Society Institute of Budapest, and many others.


In 2002 the HRP-produced film ‘I Am a Gypsy, I Plead Guilty’ won the first prize at a festival of Roma film in Skopje.

On 20 December 2002 was the premiere of the first fiction film made by Roma in Bulgaria, ‘Sali’s Life’. The producer is the HRP consultant Dimitar Georgiev.


[1] 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.

[2] As is known, desegregational projects, being one in 2002 in Vidin, are seven today and they encompass about 1300 Roma children. This is a very small part of the Roma children. All projects are the deed of NGOs and they are financed mostly by donations from the Open Society Institute of Budapest. About 70% of the Roma children, according to data of the Ministry of Education and Science and of the Open Society Foundation of Sofia, visit separate schools in the Roma neighborhoods where, as a rule, the quality of education is very low. For more details see Y. Nunev, ‘Analysis of the Current Situation of Schools Where Roma Children Study’, in the journal Strategies in Education No.5/2002, as well as the study by Dimitar Denkov et al. ‘Roma Schools in Bulgaria’ which is accessible at the website of the Open Society Foundation of Sofia

[3] According 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 Bulgaria, Sofia: Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, 2002, p. 17.

[4] See ‘Ethnic Minorities in the Press’, a publication of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee and the Bulgarian Media Coalition, Sofia, 2002.

[5] Ibid., p. 5-15. See also ‘Minorities in the Media: Media Policies and Practices’, a publication of the Human Rights Project, Sofia, 2002.

[6] The draft law introduces into Bulgaria the standards of the European Directive No. 43 of 2000 for the protection against discrimination, as well as of Directive No. 78. It provides protection against discriminatory practices on a large range of grounds, among which race, gender, age, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation. In view of the wide incidence of ethnic discrimination, it is natural to expect that the Roma will be the ones most often using its protection. For the first time in the Bulgarian legislation, the draft introduces the so-called ‘reversal of the burden of proof’. This means that, similarly to the legislative system in England and the Netherlands, it is not the plaintiff who will need to prove that he or she was discriminated but on the contrary – the one accused of discrimination will have to prove that he or she does not practice it. Besides that, the draft foresees the creation of a special organ – the Commission for the Protection from Discrimination which will have the right to impose fines on those who discriminate other persons. Within this Commission, there will be another subcommission on the protection from ethnic discrimination.

[7] 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’.)

[8] The Framework Program was accepted by 75 Roma organizations in 1998-9. ON 7 April 1999, it was adopted as an agreement between them and the Government, and on 22 April 1999 – precisely four years ago – the Government decided to turn it into a document which it undertook to fulfill.

[9] 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).

[10] 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…’.

[11] This sum is quoted in Iglika Goranova, ‘Bulgarian Helsinki Committee Slanders Bulgaria on Minorities’, the Novinar newspaper of 15 March 2003.

[12] See Jean-Pierre Liegeois, Roma, Gypsies, Nomads, Sofia: Litavra, 2000, p. 35.

[13] By official data, it was 87 leva per month per person in 2001.

[14] 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.

[15] Ibid., p. 40.

[16] Ibid., p. 44.

[17] See Stanimir Petrov, ‘Amendments in Punishment Execution Act Restrict Access to Prisons’, in Objectiv, a monthly publication of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, December 2002.

[18] 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.

[19] Among there are the Zrankovs case, the electricity riots in Plovdiv, the increased emigration to Western Europe etc.