State protection available to Romani women who are sexually assaulted by police officers; effectiveness of protection; non-governmental organizations which respond to such complaints [BGR40026.E]

The Research Directorate was unable to find information concerning state protection available to Roma women who are victims of sexually motivated attacks perpetrated by Bulgarian police officers among sources consulted. A report based on information available in July 2000 noted that while rape was a crime prosecuted by Bulgarian law enforcement, "[t]here are no special departments in the police and the prosecutor's office to deal with this issue and no special training for the respective officers is provided" (IHF 2000, 116). In addition, the report stated that while there was also no government support for victims (ibid.), NGOs provide psychological, legal and crisis support (ibid.; ibid. 8 May 2002, 89).

The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) cited the Animus Association and the Nadia Centre as "provid[ing] psychological assistance for the victims of rape in the framework of their general programme for support of the victims of violence" (ibid. 2000, 116). Based in Sofia, the Animus Association has offices in Pernik, Dobrich and Plovdiv, with crisis telephone lines available in Sofia and Pernik (Animus Association 2002a; ibid. 2002b). The association's Rehabilitation Center of Women, Adolescents and Children Survivors of Violence in Sofia offers a number of care programs including a crisis unit, shelter, and various care, rehabilitation and counselling programs (ibid. 2002a). The Nadia Centre, located in Sofia is described as providing support for victims of domestic violence (ibid. 2002b). A third NGO providing assistance to women in need is the Sofia-based Women's Alliance for Development (NEWW 22 Nov. 2000). The Research Directorate was unable to find Bulgarian Roma NGOs specifically focused on sexual assault victims among sources consulted. For further information concerning Roma NGOs, please consult BGR39945.E of 31 October 2002 and the extensive list included in BGR39490.E of 25 June 2002.

Police mistreatment of Roma was the subject of BGR40031.E of 31 October 2002. As well, recent information on state protection can be found in BGR39200.E of 12 July 2002 and BGR39510.E of 26 June 2002. In an October 2002 document concerning both state protection and police conduct, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) stated the following:

Regrettably the provisions of domestic legislation and incorporated (ratified) international documents designed to combat discrimination and to promote minority rights are not adequately enforced. Thus for example illegal and racially motivated use of force against Roma by law enforcement officials is proved to be a persistent problem and is not adequately addressed and remedied by the judicial system. ... There are widespread allegations that Roma receive different treatment within the Bulgarian justice system, including disproportionately high rates of arrest and placement in pre-trial detention, longer periods of pre-trial detention, and harsher sentences. International monitoring bodies such as the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) have noted concern at the "incidence of police discrimination and mistreatment of members of the Roma/Gypsies community."
To date there are no official statistics in Bulgaria regarding cases of alleged discrimination against minorities. Thus no official information could possibly be released as to the extent of the discrimination experienced by the minorities. Subsequently, no mechanisms have been elaborated to increase the police protection of minorities in cases of discrimination.
There is a place for serious criticism as regards degrading treatment by the police and in particular as regards physical ill-treatment of people by the police at the time of arrest and during interrogation. Violent abuse by police and other officials during criminal investigation is widespread in Bulgaria and affects both Roma and non-Roma. There are no official statistics but researches indicate that Roma are more likely to experience abuse than other groups.
Proving torture and ill-treatment is a serious problem in Bulgaria. A number of Roma have reported difficulties in obtaining medical certificates after being abused by the police. Forensic doctors and general practitioners have allegedly been instructed by the police not to issue certificates to the victims (IHF 28-29 Oct. 2002, 10-12).

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.


Animus Association. 2002a. "Centre for Rehabilitation of Women, Adolescents and Children Victims of Violence." [Accessed 6 Dec. 2002]

_____. 2002b. "Networking." [Accessed 6 Dec. 2002]

International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF). 28-29 October 2002. Bulgarian Helsinki Committee. "Bulgaria." In The Role of Community Policing in Building Confidence in Minority Communities: I. Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania and Serbia. [Accessed 6 Dec. 2002]

_____. 8 May 2002. "Bulgaria." In Human Rights in the OSCE Region: The Balkans, the Caucasus, Europe, Central Asia and North America. [Accessed 6 Dec. 2002]

_____. 2000. "Bulgaria." In Women 2000: An Investigation Into the Status of Women's Rights in Central and South-Eastern Europe and the Newly Independent States. [Accessed 6 Dec. 2002]

Network of East-West Women (NEWW). 22 November 2000. "Women's Alliance for Development." [Accessed 6 Dec. 2002]

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB Databases

Internet sites, including:

Amnesty International

Bulgarian Gender Research Project

Bulgarian Helsinki Committee

European Country of Origin Information Centre

European Roma Rights Centre

Gender Project for Bulgaria Foundation

Human Rights Watch

La Strada, Bulgaria

Non-Governmental Organizations in Bulgaria

Union of Bulgarian Foundations and Associations

Women's World Summit Foundation

Associated documents