A Third of Bulgarian Detainees Are Victims of Police Brutality

Nearly 28 percent of Bulgarian detainees say they were subjected to police brutality during arrest, in custody or both.

A total of 27.6 percent of detainees interviewed during a study on police brutality reported being the victims of police brutality during their arrest, while in custody, or both. The study found that 21.8 percent (354) of the respondents faced physical violence during interrogation in the police station, while and 15.5 percent (220) said they were abused during their arrest.

The results are from the largest study on police brutality ever conducted by the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, which visited 29 detention centers and interviewed 1,691 detainees. In most cases the individuals were handcuffed, and in some cases the handcuffs were used as a means of abuse. Not a single case was registered in which a police officer attempted to deter abuse of detainees by other police officers.

Inadequate legal aid

Nearly 34 percent (568) of the interviewed prisoners reported that their access to legal aid during pretrial proceedings was inadequate. The study reveals the key role of lawyers in the prevention of violence against detainees in police stations. The share of those who were victims of violence in police stations and had a lawyer is 13.3 percent lower than the number of those who were subjected to violence but did not have a lawyer during pretrial proceedings.

Compared to other ethnic groups, Roma are most often victims of police brutality in custody (27.2 percent) or witnesses of assaults on other detainees in police stations (10 percent).

The report is available here (in Bulgarian).