Asylum Seeker's Death by Bulgarian Police Must Be Investigated

An asylum seeker is shot dead by police on the Bulgarian-Turkish border, but will justice come for the victim and his family?
An Afghan man was shot down by a police officer and over 50 others were arrested near the Bulgarian – Turkish border in the evening of October 15, 2015. In connection with the incident, which took place near the town of Sredets, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee expressed the following position:

Taking into account the information provided during a special briefing by Secretary of Interior Georgi Kostov and the district prosecutor of Burgas, Kalina Chapkanova, neither the detainees nor the victim posed a threat to anyone's life or limb at the time of the deadly shot.

The use of weapons, including the shot in the air, was therefore illegal because it violated the mandatory standard of absolute necessity for the use of weapons, physical force or auxiliary means by the police. The standard implementing the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is enshrined in the 2012 Ministry of Interior Act.

Anti-refugee propaganda

This incident was a natural consequence of the systematic propaganda against refugees carried out by Bulgarian officials at the highest level. For many years now, refugees have been presented as a threat to Bulgarians, which has created a public perception of fear and intolerance towards the entry and presence of foreigners in Bulgaria.

The view that the use of firearms by border security officers is always justified is unacceptable. Such an opinion has nothing to do with the law. It reflects, besides ignorance, xenophobic sentiments. At the border, as elsewhere, Bulgarian border police officers are subject to Bulgarian and international law, which forbids them to use weapons against people who do not endanger anyone's life or health.

All eyes on Bulgaria

Now the prosecution must investigate what really happened in the quickest, most impartial and most thorough manner possible. The shameful tendency of Bulgarian prosecutors to show partiality to the police in cases where they have taken a human life must come to an end. In many similar cases, the state prosecution conceals the acts of the police so they do not incur criminal liability. This was confirmed by the European Court of Human Rights in numerous judgments against Bulgaria, establishing that the investigation of police violence and excessive use of force is ineffective and biased.

Now, with the eyes of the whole of Europe, not to mention those from the refugees’ countries of origin, are on Bulgaria, the attorney general is responsible for ensuring the integrity of the investigation.