MINELRES: Bulgarian Court Finds Anti-Roma Statements in Official Decree to Constitute Racial Discrimination

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Mon Feb 6 08:19:30 2006

Original sender: European Roma Rights Centre <errc@errc.org>

Trial Court Finds Anti-Roma Statements in Official Prosecutorial Decree
to Constitute Racial Discrimination in Breach of the Constitution and
International Law

Sofia, 3 February 2005. A Sofia court has ruled that a Bulgarian
prosecutor violated domestic and international law by humiliating Roma
in a decree.

With ERRC support, Ivelin Iliev, a young Romani man, secured a positive
decision from a Sofia court in a lawsuit against the Prosecutor's Office
of Bulgaria. The Sofia first-instance court found the National
Prosecutor's Office liable for racial discrimination committed by a
prosecutor of the Razgrad Prosecutor's Office, as a result of
expressions of strong anti-Romani sentiments in official prosecutorial
decrees issued by the public official in question.

The racist statements at issue were included in decrees terminating the 
investigation into the death of Mr. Iliev's brother, killed by a
landslide while collecting mine refuse for an entrepreneur. In the
accident, Ivelin and the two men's mother were seriously injured as
well. In his decrees, the prosecutor used the following statements to
describe the mentality of Roma, whom he refers to as "persons of Gypsy

"The collection [...] was done by [...] persons of Gypsy origin. Taking 
into account the psychology of this population, they [violations of 
workplace safety specifications] were, from the beginning, universal and 
daily. Everyone was seized with the urge collect as much garbage as 
possible, so as to earn as much money as possible. It was therefore 
impossible to restrain. Their plunder was ubiquitous, and their 
transgressions were constant. Moreover, these people were constantly 
changing, responding to rumours that it was possible to make money
[...] Mr. Iliev himself caused the landslide [...] aiming to earn more 
money." (unofficial translation by the ERRC)

The court held that from these words of the prosecutors it can be
concluded "[...] that, in his view, Romani people are undisciplined,
unruly, irrational, greedy and uncivilised." This expression of "a
slighting attitude" constitutes an act of discrimination, as ­ in the
court's view ­ "if another ethnic group were referred to, no such
generalisations would be made [...] It is namely their Romani ethnicity
which caused the prosecutor to characterise thus the mentality of this
community"s members, in particular that of the victims ­ the claimant
and his family."

The court rules: "Every person of Bulgarian, Romani, or other ethnic
origin has the right to be treated by everyone without restrictions,
without distinctions, and with the necessary respect for their person
and rights. No one has the right to humiliate another on the basis of
their ethnic identity, still less an official carrying out the state
law-enforcement functions. Every person has a right to a socially
non-aggressive environment, and to an opportunity to receive equal
treatment regardless of their ethnic appurtenance."

The court held the Prosecutor's Office liable for a breach of the 
Constitution and International Convention on the Elimination of All
of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), and ordered it to pay Ivelin Iliev BGN 
500 (approximately EURO 250), the full amount sought in compensation for 
his non-pecuniary damages sustained as a result of the discriminatory
acts in question.

Counsel for claimant was ERRC Sofia-based consultant on race
discrimination litigation, Margarita Ilieva. The judgment is not final.

For further information on the case, please contact ERRC Legal Director 
Dianne Post at +36-1-413-2221 (dianne.post@errc.org), or Margarita
at +359-2-943-4876 (margarita@bghelsinki.org).

The European Roma Rights Centre is an international public interest law 
organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal
defence in cases of human rights abuse. For more information about the
European Roma Rights Centre, visit the ERRC on the web at

European Roma Rights Centre
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93

Phone: +36 1 4132200
Fax: +36 1 4132201


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