Tech & Rights

'Slow and Fragile' Progress on Human Rights in Bulgaria

The latest report on Bulgaria by the Council of Europe shows slow and fragile progress in strengthening human rights protection of persons placed in institutions, migrants and media freedom.

by Bulgarian Helsinki Committee

"Bulgaria has made some progress in strengthening human rights protection, but this remains slow and fragile, in particular with respect to the rights of persons placed in institutions, the human rights of migrants and media freedom," said Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe commissioner for human rights, while releasing a report on his visit to Bulgaria from February 9-11, 2015.

The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) welcomes the publication of the report and the recommendations to the Bulgarian state. The organization recalls that it has long warned the public institutions of developments favoring violations of human rights.

Obsolete legislation

Commissioner Muižnieks recommends speeding up the deinstitutionalization of children and ensuring that residential institutions are replaced by family and community-based services. He also recommends overhauling the juvenile justice system and abolishing correctional boarding schools where children with so-called "anti-social behavior" are sent:

"Children are sent to such places established on the basis of obsolete legislation without a due assessment of their needs and where physical and psychological violence happens regularly. Once they are inside, they lack the necessary protection and are cut-off from quality education, thus reducing their chances of reintegrating into society."

In December 2014, BHC once again warned that Bulgarian children are deprived of their liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily, and for long periods of time. The report summarizing the biennial surveys of BHC’s researchers in closed institutions for children in Bulgaria is available here.

Adults with mental and intellectual disabilities

"One of the main obstacles is the legal capacity regime currently in place, which often leads to the placement of persons under full or partial guardianship in institutions. I encourage the Bulgarian authorities to strengthen their efforts to change this system and move towards a system of supported decision-making," said the commissioner.

What does the state provide for adults with mental disorders eleven years after the reform — is it support, care or isolation? Read the findings of the monitoring, carried out by BHC in a total of 60 homes, sheltered housing units, care centers and other institutions for residential care services for adults with mental disorders in Bulgaria.

Unlawful detention of asylum seekers

The commissioner recommends remedying the frequent unlawful detention of asylum seekers and the inadequate material conditions in immigration detention centers, as well as investigating all cases of ill-treatment in these centers. "Immigration detention must only be used as a last resort, for the shortest possible period of time and on the basis of individual assessments. Children should not be subjected to immigration detention, whether with or without their families."

Moreover, the commissioner calls on the Bulgarian authorities to ensure that migrants arriving at Bulgaria’s border are not subject to push-backs and collective expulsions and to effectively investigate any such allegations.

The commissioner urges authorities to do more to ensure the integration of recognized refugees and other beneficiaries of international protection in Bulgaria.

The human rights of unaccompanied children, their access to registration and legal assistance were identified as key issues for asylum seekers in the 2014 Annual Monitoring Report on Refugee Status Determination Procedures by the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee.

The full report of Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks is available here. The report in a nutshell is available here.