Extradition of Threatened Turk Reveals a Systematic Problem in Bulgaria

Bulgarian authorities handed over Abdullah Büyük to Turkey despite the fact that the Sofia Court of Appeal blocked his extradition.
This is only one of several cases in which Bulgaria expelled foreign citizens to countries where their lives, security and human rights are at serious risk, says Krasimir Kanev, chairman of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC).
Bulgaria has already been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights for similar cases.

The Bulgarian Interior Ministry violated international law, the Bulgarian Constitution and the Refugee Act by implementing extradition disguised as an expulsion. Abdullah Büyük was sent to a country where his safety and rights will be at serious risk, and this is not the first such case in Bulgaria.

More severe cases

It is a systemic problem not only of the Bulgarian government, but also of the judicial authorities. In recent years, the BHC has documented far more severe cases. The organization provided legal protection and brought some of the cases before the European Court of Human Rights.

  • In 2012, the Court of Appeal in Veliko Tarnovo allowed the extradition of the Chechen M. D., accused of taking part in armed resistance against Russian federal authorities. M. D. was granted refugee status in Germany, but that didn’t stop the Bulgarian court from ordering his extradition to Russia, where his life and personal security would be seriously threatened. The ECtHR issued "interim measures" on the case and suspended the extradition. In March 2014, the court in Strasbourg finally condemned Bulgaria.
  • In 2013, the Bulgarian immigration authorities tried to expel to Syria the Palestinian M.M., a stateless person who was born and raised in Damascus, but resides in Bulgaria under humanitarian protection. M.M. was suspected of being "a threat to national security." At the height of the civil war in Syria he was issued a laissez-passer from the Syrian embassy in Sofia. M.M. was an open opponent of President Bashar al-Assad. But no personal history or humanitarian status prevented the Bulgarian authorities from trying to expel him to Syria at the height of the war. The ECtHR issued "interim measures" on the case and suspended the expulsion. The actual judgment is expected by the end of the year.
  • In early August, the Bulgarian immigration authorities successfully expelled to Russia the Chechen Shoip Tutayev, even though the president of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, publicly threatened him on TV. This open threat from a man who never hesitated to fulfill what he said was not a sufficient argument for the Bulgarian authorities to provide Tutayev with protection.
  • On August 13, the BHC learned from the media that two Kurds were deported to Turkey. According to the Turkish press, R.I. and S.K. were members of the KCK (Koma Ciwaken Kürdistan) - Union of Kurdish Communities and wing of PKK with leader Murat Karayilan. Bulgarian authorities handed them back to Turkey despite the serious risk for their lives and physical safety in Turkey and in flagrant violation of international law.

This is only a fraction of the cases in which Bulgaria handed over foreign citizens to countries where their lives, security and human rights are likely to be at serious risk. International law forbids this categorically, and all such attempts led to interim measures and decisions against Bulgaria in Strasburg.