Reports police maltreatment of Roma following their complaints of misconduct filed against police; prevalence of complaints filed in Kurdjali, Bourgas, Sofia, Pleven and Plovdiv (2000-2002) [BGR40031.E]

The Research Directorate was unable to find reports of Romani who had issued a complaint to Bulgarian prosecutors concerning police conduct having subsequently been mistreated by the police among sources consulted.

According to a 2000 Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) report, the complaint process is as follows:

Citizens who are victims of the illegal conduct of police personnel can directly address the territorial Police Office, the Regional Directorate or the Ministry of the Interior with their complaint. There is no time limit. After the head of the respective police unit receives a complaint, s/he is under a legal obligation to investigate the complaint and provide an answer to the complainant within one month. The complaint may be oral or written, and should describe in as much detail as possible the relevant facts, identifying the police employee who allegedly committed the offense. While the complaint cannot be anonymous, the head of office should guarantee the anonymity of the complainant. The Police is obliged by law to respond to the complaint irrespective of whether or not a violation is found. Inaction by the head of office can be appealed up the hierarchy to the Regional Directorate, the National Service Police and the Ministry of the Interior. There are "complaints" units within the Regional Directorates and an "Inspectorate" Service within the Ministry of the Interior dealing with allegations of police misconduct. They should also report their findings to the complainant. In the case of violations, they can only suggest measures, but it is the responsibility of the head of the respective unit to take action. There is no appeal outside the Ministry of the Interior on the decisions of the Police or Ministry upon such complaints (2000).

Amnesty International noted that the military prosecutor's office was responsible for investigating complaints against police officers (16 Aug. 2000; ibid. 2002). In their Annual Report 2001 Amnesty International mentioned that amendments to the Penal Procedure Code had come into force in 2000 that allowed "judicial review of refusals by prosecutors to initiate investigations..." (ibid. 2001). It also reported that "[i]ll-treatment and torture by the police continued to be widespread" (ibid.). In 2002, the European Union observed that "[i]nvestigations into police abuse remain rare and from the small number of cases that do come to court there are few convictions" (EC 9 Oct. 2002, 29). For further information concerning the legislative mechanism for complaints, police actions and the recourse available to Roma, please consult BGR39200.E of 12 July 2002, BGR39490.E of 25 June 2002.

Information specific to Roma-initiated complaints was not found among sources consulted for this Response although general information was available. A 2000 news report citing BHC and the Bulgarian non-governmental organization, the Human Rights Project (HRP) noted that "hundreds of such cases [of police brutality] have been documented during the past few years..." after peaking in 1994-1996 period (BTA 24 Jan. 2000). A decline in numbers observed over "the past 2 years" (1998-1999) was attributed to "the fact that police and prosecutors are reacting more adequately" (ibid.). According to Country Reports 2001, "the National Police Service received 74 complaints about police violence between January 1 and September 30" 2001 (4 Mar. 2002). The same report noted that "most military prosecutors refused to provide" complaint statistics; however, the Varna military prosecutor's office did report that "they received 90 complaints" and had initiated 44 investigations (4 Mar. 2002). Amnesty International's Annual Report 2002 noted that the HRP had "investigated over 90 complaints of serious human rights violations suffered by Romani victims" as a result of police action where, "[i]n the majority of reported cases complaints were filed with the military prosecutors (2002).

The Research Directorate was unable to find statistics concerning the number of complaints received by the police departments of the cities mentioned in the Information Request. However, there were reports of investigations initiated by military prosecutors into police conduct within, or in villages near, Sofia (BHC 2000; Country Reports 2001 2002; ERRC 26 Oct. 2000a; ibid. 26 Oct. 2000b), Pleven (BHC 2000; ERRC 26 Oct. 2000b), and Plovdiv (BHC 2000).

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.


Amnesty International. 2002. Annual Report 2002. "Bulgaria."!Open [Accessed 29 Oct. 2002]

_____. 2001. Annual Report 2001. "Bulgaria." [Accessed 29 Oct. 2002]

_____. 16 August 2000. (AI-Index EUR 15/001/2000). "The Shooting og Atanas Djambazov a 14-Year Old Roma Boy." [Accessed 29 Oct. 2002]

Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC). March 2001. "Human Rights in Bulgaria in 2000: Annual Report of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee." [Accessed 29 Oct. 2002]

_____. 2000. Police in Transition: Bulgaria Country Report. [Accessed 29 Oct. 2002]

Bulgarian News Agency (BTA). 24 January 2000. "Petitions on Police Ill-Treatment of Gypsies Filed." (FBIS-EEU-2000-0124 24 Jan. 2000/WNC)

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2001. 4 March 2002. United States Department of State. Washington, DC. "Bulgaria." [Accessed 13 Feb. 2002]

European Roma Rights Centre. 26 October 2000a. Roma Rights Quarterly No. 3. "Bulgarian Roma Denied Legal Rememedy for Human Rights Abuses."

_____. 26 October 2000b. Roma Rights Quarterly No. 3. "Romani Youth Shot and Killed by Police Officers in Bulgaria."

European Union. Commission of the European Communities (EC). 9 October 2002. 2002 Regular Report on Bulgaria's Progress towards Accession. [Accessed 30 Oct. 2002]

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB Databases


Internet sites including,

European Roma Rights Centre

Human Rights Watch

World News Connection

International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights

Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Minority Rights in Bulgaria (1999)

Bulgarian League for Human Rights
Council of Europe,

Report on Bulgaria

Associated documents