Roma are not safe in Bulgaria

March 11, 2004

Written by Jenny Bourne

A judgement from the European Court of Human Rights on 26 February, which found Bulgaria guilty of deprivation of life of two Roma, is due to have wide repercussions.

It makes a mockery of Bulgaria being considered a safe country where human rights is concerned. Bulgaria is currently on the UK’s White List of countries – from which claims for asylum are considered manifestly unfounded. And this is the first time that the European Court, the judicial body of the Council Of Europe, has condemned discrimination against Roma. This case, therefore opens the door for other human rights cases to be brought by Roma from other countries before international courts.

This case, which has involved Bulgaria being charged with violation of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, relates to the shooting by military police, of two escaped Roma detainees, Mr Angelov and Mr Petkov in July 1996. The two, who were petty criminals with no history of violence, had escaped from a work party and gone to stay with relatives. Four military officers were sent to arrest them – carrying handguns, automatic rifles and wearing bullet-proof vests. They were instructed to use all necessary means to arrest them. After issuing one warning, the men were shot at a distance, one in the back, one in the front.

The relatives of the deceased had complained, not just about the use of lethal force, but also about a failure to conduct an effective investigation into the deaths (in violation of Article 2 and Article 13), and that prejudice and hostile attitudes towards Roma had played a decisive role in events (in violation of Article 14 and Article 2).

The Court held unanimously that there had been: violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning the shooting of the applicants’ relatives; violation of Areticle2 concerning the lack of an effective investigation into their deaths; violations of Articles 14(prohibition of discrimination), taken together with Article 2 to protect life by law and that no separate issues arose under Article 13 (right to effective remedy).

Related links

European Roma Rights Centre

European Court of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights : Nachova and Others v. Bulgaria (application numbers 43577/98 and 43579/98)

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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