To whom would Roma file a complaint with in the event of abuse by police officers; existence of an office within the Ministry of Interior charged with responding to complaints; extant Roma organizations in Bulgaria and their services; available legal services [BGR39490.E]

The Bulgarian legal system's response to complaints of police maltreatment was discussed in the 2001 Open Society Institute report entitled Monitoring the EU Accession Process: Minority Protection, where it stated that there is:

a general reluctance among prosecutors to bring such cases, has resulted in lack of enforcement of these provisions, despite evidence of frequent cases of racially motivated violence against Roma, including by law-enforcement and other state officials.
Art. 162 of the Penal Code punishes crimes "of general nature...". However, there are no prosecutors with special responsibilities for the enforcement of laws prohibiting racial discrimination or racially motivated violence. According to official statistics, since 1990 public prosecutors have instituted no criminal proceedings and no one has been sentenced under Art. 162.
After a police raid in the Roma neighbourhood of Mechka in July 1998, when dozens of innocent people were beaten up and their property destroyed, several Roma received threats of violent attack from their Bulgarian fellow villagers. On their request that the District Prosecutor of Pleven instigate criminal proceedings under Art. 162, he refused, arguing that they were confusing the terms "nationality and race" with "ethnos and ethnic", i.e. that the crime envisaged by Art. 162 does not apply to ethnic groups (99)
Two cases of police violence against Roma have been decided by the ECHR [European Court of Human Rights] ... both raising important factual and legal issues related to police brutality. These include the reluctance of the prosecutor's offices to initiate criminal proceedings in cases of police abuse against Roma or to indict police officers who are responsible for human rights violations against Roma; the complicity of medical professionals in concealing the crimes of law enforcement officers; and the lack of impartiality of the prosecution as an agency for imposing detention and prosecuting crime (ibid., 100).

A 2002 Council of Europe report mentioned a special organ charged to hear complaints against public officials (28 Jan. 2002). The report cited "the Director of the National Police" who pointed out

that a special "Complaints" Office had been set up at the Ministry of Internal Affairs (within the Directorate of Human Resources), with a view to combating illegal behaviour by the police, including ill-treatment. The office in question is obliged to draw up reports on a monthly basis concerning all complaints received and action taken, and present it to the Minister of Internal Affairs (ibid., 17).

The Bulgarian Ministry of the Interior Website makes no mention of an office specifically delegated to receive complaints of police misconduct although there is a Human Resources Directorate listed among its "administrative services" (Bulgaria 8 Dec. 2000).

The European Union also mentions an office in its 2001 Regular Report on Bulgaria's Progress Towards Accession that referred to a:

specialised human rights committee, which has the role of aligning police practice with international law and organising training. Regional co-ordinators who will organise activities at local level, have been appointed and are receiving periodical training on human rights issues (EU 13 Nov. 2001, 22).

The Research Directorate was unable to ascertain the date that the complaints office or human rights committee was introduced into the Ministry of Interior among sources consulted.

Roma may also complain through non-official channels to, for example, the Sofia-based non-governmental organization Human Rights Project for advocacy on the individual's behalf (Multicultural Skyscraper Newsletter 15 Mar. 2002). The group explained its provision of legal services as:

We provide legal representation on behalf of Roma in a select number of cases of precedential importance such as police violence, racially motivated violence, and discrimination practiced by state officials. Since its establishment, the HRP has provided legal consultation to Roma individuals who want to challenge illegal actions of state officials (ibid.).

The Center of Documentation and Information in Europe- Southeast Europe (CEDIME-SE) report (2000) noted the HRP's involvement in Assenov v. Bulgaria, the first case of a European Roma suing Bulgaria for police maltreatment (Aug. 2000, 9). The case was heard by the European Court of Human Rights with judgement for Assenov on 28 October 1998 (OSI 2001, 100). A second Roma NGO, the Sofia-based Romani Baht Foundation, also claims to provide "legal and administrative assistance" (Patrin Web Journal 21 Jan. 2002).

The 2000 CEDIME-SE refers to the existence of 75 Bulgarian Roma organizations involved in a fall 1998 consultative process concerning Roma rights (17). Some of these are among the groups included below, listed by organization name, then location(s) if acknowledged and services provided if noted:

Advancement of Roma Foundation; Pazardzhik (CEDIME-SE Aug. 2000, 33)
Centre for Analysis and Strategies of Roma People; Sliven (UBFA 1998)
Civil Union, Roma, "unites the efforts of 9 non-governmental and 3 political parties" (Bulgarian Socialist Party 27 June 2001)
Confederation of the Roma Population; Blagoevgrad and Sofia (UBFA 1998) also referred to as the Confederation of Romas (Bulgarian Socialist Party 27 June 2001
Human Rights Project; Sofia; human rights education, legal representation and legal services (Multicultural Skyscraper Newsletter 15 Mar. 2002; CEDIME-SE Aug. 2000, 9)
Minority Studies Society Studii Romani; Sofia (Patrin Web Journal 21 Jan. 2002)
New Life for Bulgarian Roma People; Sliven; charity activity for children, education and social services (UBFA 18 Oct. 2000; ibid. 1998)
ROM- Foundation in Lom; Lom (CEDIME-SE Aug. 2000, 33)
Roma; Varna, and Plovdiv; (UBFA 1998) also referred to as the Foundation for Regional Development ROMA in Plovdiv; social assistance, education, training, regional development (Patrin Web Journal 21 Jan. 2002)
Roma-93 Foundation; Pavlikeni (CEDIME-SE Aug. 2000, 33)
Roma Association; Blagoevgrad (UBFA 1998)
Roma Bureau; Sofia (ibid.). CEDIME-SE also refers to this group as the Roma Bureau - Sofia Foundation (Aug. 2000, 32)
Roma Democratic Union/United Roma Organization (ibid., 9). CEDIME-SE also referred to an Independent Democratic Roma Union in Kamenar (ibid. 32)
Roma Foundation; Lom (ibid., 10)
Roma Program (ibid., 9)
Roma Union for Social Democracy; Vidin and Stara Zagora (UBFA 1998; CEDIME-SE Aug. 2000, 33)
Roma Women's Society; Plovdiv (ibid., 9, 32)
Roma Youth Club; Plovdiv (ibid., 32)
Romani Baht Foundation; Sofia; legal and administrative assistance, lifestyle and medical training and regional development (Patrin Web Journal 21 Jan. 2002)
Romsko Bureau Foundation; Sofia (CEDIME-SE Aug. 2000, 10)
United Roma Union; Haskovo, Sliven and Dobrich; Education, health, social services, business, social development (UBFA 18 Oct. 2000; ibid. 1998)
Women for Charity; Sliven (ibid.; CEDIME-SE Aug. 2000, 33)

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Bulgaria. Ministry of Interior. 8 December 2000. "Ministry Structure and Tasks." [Accessed 21 June 2002]

Bulgarian Socialist Party. 27 June 2001. "Parties and Civil Structures Presenting Coalition for Bulgaria." [Accessed 21 June 2002]

Center for Documentation and Information on Minorities in Europe - Southeast Europe (CEDIME-SE). August 2000. Minorities of Southeast Europe. "Roma of Bulgaria." [Accessed 21 June 2002]

Council of Europe. Director General of Human Rights. 28 January 2002. Report to the Bulgarian Government on the Visit to Bulgaria Carried out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 25 April - 7 May 1999. /em> [Accessed 21 June 2002]

European Union. Commission of the European Communities. 13 November 2001. 2001 Regular Report on Bulgaria's Progress Towards Accession. report2001/bu_en.pdf [Accessed 21 June 2002]

Multicultural Skyscraper Newsletter [Utrecht, Netherlands]. 15 March 2002. Vol. 1, No. 5. Kamelia Angelova. "Media Advocacy Work for the Roma in Bulgaria." [Accessed 21 June 2002]

Open Society Institute (OSI). 2001. EU Accession Monitoring Program: Minority Protection. "Minority Protection in Bulgaria." [Accessed 21 June 2002]

Patrin Web Journal. 21 January 2002. "Roma Organizations." [Accessed 21 June 2002]

Union of Bulgaria Foundations and Associations (UBFA). 18 October 2000. [Accessed 21 June 2002]

_____. 1998. [Accessed 21 June 2002]

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB Databases

Internet Sites Including:

Amnesty International

Balkan Human Rights Web

Bulgaria, Ministry of Interior

Bulgaria, Ministry of Justice

Council of Europe

European Roma Rights Center

Government of Bulgaria

Greek Helsinki Committee

Human Rights Watch

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