Report of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe following her visit to Bulgaria on 25-29 November 2019
The Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Dunja Mijatović, and her team visited Bulgaria from 25 to 29 November 2019. During the visit, the Commissioner held discussions with the Bulgarian authorities, the Ombudsman, the Chair and members of the Commission for Protection against Discrimination, journalists, human rights defenders and other representatives of civil society. This report focuses on the following issues raised during the visit:
- racism, intolerance and discrimination
- violence against women and domestic violence
- media freedom
The Commissioner notes with alarm the rampant intolerance manifested towards minority groups in Bulgaria, affecting especially Roma; Muslims; migrants and asylum-seekers; persons identifying as ethnic Macedonians; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people. This attitude is also reflected in the predominantly negative media coverage of minorities, who are often associated with criminality or presented as posing a danger to the values of the majority population or to national interests. Moreover, the Commissioner regrets that some high-level officials have used their position as a platform to further fuel antagonism and intolerance in Bulgarian society.
The Commissioner considers that there is a need for a political and cultural shift as regards the treatment and image of minority groups in Bulgaria, as well as for enhanced legal protection against discrimination and offences motivated by hatred or bias. Recognising racist motivation as an aggravating circumstance for all offences and implementing the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, including those on forced evictions and the registration of associations of persons identifying as belonging to a minority, are among the immediate steps which the government should take. In addition, the authorities should strongly condemn and take measures to effectively tackle extremist nationalist, racist and antisemitic manifestations which have occurred repeatedly in Bulgaria in recent years.
Read the comments of the Bulgarian authorities on the Commissioner's report.