MINELRES: Roma Organizations in Bulgaria Condemn the Racist Calls of a Trade Union Leader

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Wed Sep 1 16:40:10 2004


Original sender: Emil Cohen <emilcohen@bnc.bg>


Human Rights Project*
Press Release
The Roma Organizations in Bulgaria Condemn the Racist Calls of a Trade
Union Leader

Sofia, August 20 - On August 10, 2004 Mr. Konstantin Trenchev, President
of the ‘Podkrepa’ (1) Labor Confederation (2) made on behalf of his
trade union a statement directed against so-called ‘Roma criminality’.
The occasion was that some days ago a group of Roma from Samokov (3)
trashed some forest guards who have tried to impose a fine on the Roma
for illegal cutting of wood. The case was widely popularized by the
media. Some days later Mr. Trenchev made his statement. 

In it he invoked for creating of a National Guard composed by former
commandos that have to keep ‘the population against the raids of the
Roma’. He said that ‘the society has to be protected because these
incursions have transformed into real scourge for the rest of the
population’. Also he added that the Roma criminality has became ‘an
industry’ and also that ‘the Roma prostitution has overflowed the whole
Europe’. He wanted the rules for ownership of guns to be liberalized so
that the people to be free to use them against ‘the Roma raiders’. 

Mr. Trenchev has given several interviews and his views were broadly
disseminated. What is remarkable that only the human rights and Roma
organizations protested against the racist excesses of the leader of
‘Podkrepa’ trade union. There has not been any oficial reaction about
the Trenchev’s statements and calls. The state institutions and the
responsible high officials kept silence. The only exceptions were the
reactions of Colonel Pavlin Dimitrov, Deputy Chief of the National
Police and of Mr. Mikhail Ivanov, Secretary of the National Council on
Ethnic and Demographic Issues. The first said that there were not legal
possibilities in the framework of the acting legislation for creation of
such National Guard. He said that the idea of Trenchev looked like of
creation of groups resembling to the USA old organization
‘Ku-Klux-Klan’. The second also condemned the Trenchev’s statements. The
Prosecutor’s Office also kept silence nevertheless the declarations of
Mr. Trencev can be regarded as crime according to Art. 162 of the Penal
Code: ‘incitement to race or national hate’. 

Three days after the Trenchev’s speeches 14 Roma organizations said that
they condemn Trenchev. They also and especially the Romany Bacht
Foundation stated they would litigate with the Chief of the syndicate.
On August 15 the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee made a press-conference at
which the calls of Trenchev were blamed. The real reason for the
so-called ‘Roma criminality’ was the social isolation of the Roma, the
discrimination and the deep misery of the most of the Roma people. 

On August 18 27 Roma and human rights organizations leaded by Human
Rights Project and the Civil Association ‘Parliament Roma’ made a
press-conference and at it disseminated a special declaration with
blaming of the calls of Mr. Trenchev (the full text of the document is
attached to the Press Release.) HRP and the other Roma organizations
stated that Trenchev’s call was a fascist one by its character. The
called on the trade union leader to beg Roma’s pardon. Also they
insisted that the state high officials and at first place the President,
The Prime Minister and the Chair of the National Assembly to condemn the
Trenchev’s racist statements. They also invited the Prosecutor’s Office
to do its work and to open a penal prosecution against Mr. Trenchev on
the ground of Art. 162 of the Penal Code. 

Recently in Bulgaria the articles and calls with racist and especially
anti-Roma content have became frequent. On April 14 the biggest
Bulgarian newspaper ‘Trud’ published an article that wanted the Roma to
expelled from Bulgaria. It was written by one young Bulgarian
chauvinist. There were not any official reactions. In June and July
several newspapers started a campaign on occasion of ‘Roma demographic
danger’. There was no reaction on part of the state officials.
Independent scholars and NGOs were the only that protested against the
racist assertions of some social scientists that the main danger for the
future of the Bulgarians was the ‘Roma demographic bomb’, i.e. this that
the Roma according to the these scholars give birth to much more
children then ‘ethnic Bulgarians’. 

Human Rights Project is seriously worried about these negative
developments and again calls on the state officials clearly to say that
such racist and fascist calls are unacceptable in Bulgaria that in close
future want to join to the European Union. 

Endnotes:

(1) The Bulgarian word ‘Podkrepa’ in English means ‘relief’ or more
precisely ‘support’.

(2) It is the second by number of members trade union in Bulgaria. It
was established more than 15 years ago by Mr. Trenchev. Since its
beginning it has symbolized the opposition against the official
communist trade unions. 

(3) Samokov is a small town situated at the foot of the Rila mountain.
Roma present about one third of the total population. Most of them are
unemployed and their main source of income is a cutting of the forest.
They pay the wood to poor people who use it for heating during the
winter. 

Enclosure (A full text of the declaration of 27 Roma organizations): 

To the Bulgarian News Agency 

CC: 

Mr. George Purvanov, President of Republic of Bulgaria
Mr. Ognian Gerdjikov, Chairperson of the National Assembly of Bulgaria
Mr. Simeon Saxe Coburg Gotta, Prime Minister of Bulgaria
Mr. Nikola Filchev, Chief Prosecutor of Bulgaria
Supreme Council of the Bulgarian Socialist Party
National Council of the Union of the Democratic Forces 
Central Council of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms
Political Council of the National Movement Simeon the Second 
Political Party ‘Democrats for Strong Bulgaria’
The Confederation of the Independent Trade-unions in Bulgaria
Labor Confederation ‘Podkrepa’


Declaration of 27 Roma Organizations 

On the Occasion of the Racist Pronouncements of Dr. Konstatntin Trenchev 

Roma community strongly condemns the fascist calls of Mr. Trenchev 
The overcoming of the misery and discrimination is the only solution of
the problem with so-called ‘Roma criminality’ 
On August 10, 2004 the President of the ‘Podkrepa’ Labor Confederation
Dr. Konstantin Trenchev proposed voluntary armed National Guards to be
established. According to the opinion of Mr. Trenchev it should protect
the society from the ‘Roma criminality’. In his statement he said that
‘the Gypsy systematically committed robberies in the villages, were
pick-pockets in the cities and were engaged in prostitution that have
sent outcries of contempt across Europe and also that they did not pay
for the goods that they consume, i.e.electricity, water and heating’.
‘And the most shocking was that they sold their children’, added Mr.
Trenchev. Beside this he wants the control on the ownership and usage of
guns to be loosened so that the citizens to be able to protect
themselves against the rides of the Roma because it became clear that
the police could not cope with it. 

We representatives of 27 Roma and human rights organizations are shocked
from the fascist and racist way of thinking of the trade-union leader we
until recently respected. We condemn the proposals of Mr. Trenchev. We
can’t characterize his ideas in other way than as fascist ones. The
manner of dealing that he wants to introduce are inherent only for the
totalitarian countries. Only that kind of countries and their leaders
afford themselves to generalize the cases of crimes committed by Romany
people – he in fact announced all the Romany people as criminals. Such
calls can lead only to inflaming of race hatred among the different
parts of our Bulgarian people. If the society takes up the Trenchev’s
way for coping with the so-called ‘Roma criminality’ in short time we
will be witnesses of real interethnic wars here in Bulgaria. Anyhow the
deep misery and the discrimination long time ago transformed the Roma
neighbors in something like of fortresses under siege and inside them
the tension and the wrath of people have increased without of break. 

The way in which Mr. Trenchev treats of the misery of hundreds of
thousands of Roma, most of who live in desperate poverty is a cynical
one. Everyone can watch that poverty without any efforts if he or she
takes a walk across bigger Roma neighbors. That destitution is
skillfully exploited by different criminal structures that buy for
nothing the wood, the scraps, the bodies and sometimes even the children
of the furious from penury people. Most of these criminal structures are
not Roma’s ones. 

We call Mr. Trenchev to beg Roma’s pardon and publicly to retract him
proposals. We urge on the responsible state institutions and mainly the
President, the Chair of the National Assembly and the Prime Minister
clearly to announce that the ideas like these of Dr. Trenchev are not
permissible in a democratic society. We call on them to condemn the
statements of Mr. Trencev as inciting to ‘race or national hostility or
hate’ that can lead to an interethnic tension and a conflict. These
statements present by themselves, as it is well known, a crime according
to the Art. 162 of the Bulgarian Penal Code. Beside this we propose to
the Confederate Council of the ‘Podkrepa’ Labor Confederation to urge
Mr. Trenchev to resign his office as President of the trade-union
because of him unacceptable behavior. 

Roma are part of the Bulgarian people and their problems are problems of
the whole society. That is why we call on the government finally really
to start the implementation of the Framework Program for Equal
Integration of Roma in the Bulgarian Society. As it is well known it was
approved by the Council of Ministers on April 22, 1999. The Action Plan
for Further Implementation of the Framework Program that has elaborated
by the leading Roma organizations can serve as a good basis for the
execution of the ideas of the Framework Program. The overcoming of the
misery and the discrimination against the Roam are the only cure of the
problem with so co-called ‘Roma criminality’. 

Signed by Human Rights Project, Civil Association ‘Parliament Roma’, and
more than 20 other Roma organizations. 

Sofia, August 17, 2004

On behalf of HRP:

Emil Cohen

____________

*Human Rights Project was established in the summer of 1992 as
anon-profit organization focusing on monitoring the human
rightssituation of the Roma in Bulgaria, and on legal defense in cases
of serious human rights abuses. The HRP monitors the human rights
situation of the Roma community in Bulgaria and reports on the cases
which it had investigated; works with Roma volunteers from all over the
country who report on the human rights observation in their region;
conduct independent extrajudicial investigation into allegations of
human rights violations against Roma; hire lawyers to take up selected
cases and monitors the process of legal defense; advocates legislative
and policy changes in favor of Roma.

Ivan Ivanov is Chair of the Board of HRP. 
Dimitrina Petrova, Dimitar Georgiev, Mitio Kemalov and Rumian Russinov
are members of the Board.
Emil Cohen emilcohen@bnc.bg is Executive Director.

Our address: 23 Solunska St., 6th floor, 1000 Sofia, Bulgaria
Tel./fax: (+359 2) 986 35 46 and (+359 2) 981 50 66;
E-mail: hrproject@bnc.bg and  hrp@bnc.bg

Emil Cohen
Human Rights Project
Executive Director
1000 Sofia, 23 Solunska Str.
Phone/fax: (+359 2) 98150 66; GSM: (+359) 0888335707