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TITLE:  BULGARIA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                            
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994


Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic ruled by a democratically 
elected government.  President Zhelyu Zhelev, former chairman 
of the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), was elected in January 
1992 to a 5-year term in the country's first direct 
presidential elections.  After a UDF government fell in October 
1992, and the UDF and Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) each 
failed to form a government, the Movement for Rights and 
Freedoms (MRF), mainly representing the ethnic Turkish 
minority, nominated centrist economist Lyuben Berov as its 
candidate for Prime Minister.  Lacking a stable parliamentary 
majority during 1993, Berov was forced to depend on the BSP, 
heir to the Bulgarian Communist party structure, for much of 
his support.

The UDF, formerly the largest parliamentary bloc, was weakened 
by internal divisions in 1993.  A UDF-supported hunger strike 
by a Member of Parliament (M.P.), aimed at bringing down the 
Berov Government and forcing the President to resign, ended 
when President Zhelev gave provisional support to the idea of 
earlier-than-required parliamentary elections in 1994.  The BSP 
adopted a policy designed to reduce further the President's 
already circumscribed powers and to reassert itself as the 
strongest force in the three branches of government.

Most security services are the responsibility of the Ministry 
of the Interior, which controls the police, National Security 
Service (civilian counterintelligence), internal security 
troops, border guards, and special forces.  The President 
oversees the National Intelligence Service (foreign 
intelligence).  There were few accusations of illegal 
wiretapping in 1993, compared to previous years.  Some 
allegations that police used excessive force, particularly 
against Gypsies, were substantiated by domestic and 
international human rights groups.  Human rights groups made 
credible assertions that a police bill passed in December gives 
police forces excessively broad powers of search and entry 
without first obtaining a warrant.

The transition to a market economy continued, albeit slowly and 
against political and social resistance.  Restitution of shops 
and houses that were confiscated by the communists in the 
1940's has put capital into the hands of many ordinary 
Bulgarians, helping fuel rapidly growing consumer goods and 
service sectors.  However, privatization of state-owned 
industry moved slowly, as did the breakup of state-organized 
collective farms.  Bilateral agreements with members of the 
European Free Trade Association entered into force, and a 
bilateral investment treaty with the United States concluded in 
1992 was expected to enter into force in 1994.  Bulgaria 
reached preliminary agreement with its private creditors to 
restructure $10 billion of defaulted commercial debt, but had 
not concluded a standby agreement with the International 
Monetary Fund by year's end.

Bulgaria's human rights performance continued to be generally 
good in 1993.  Freedom of press, assembly, religion, speech, 
association, and travel were respected, with some significant 
exceptions.  Although the Government made some efforts to 
address the specific difficulties of minority groups and to 
investigate alleged human rights violations, xenophobia, 
nationalism, and antiethnic expression increased noticeably 
among the population at large.  Gypsies (Roma) continued to be 
the target of police beatings and other excessive force; the 
Government investigated only a few such incidents.  
Constitutional provisions against ethnically based political 
parties continued to pose a potential threat to the legality of 
the MRF and to prevent the participation of parties 
representing Gypsy interests.  Western missionaries and some 
Bulgarian religious groups reported harassment.

The Government dismissed several key figures in the state-owned 
media for so-called antigovernment activity.  Parliament passed 
an anti-Communist "lustration" bill (see Section 1.a.), upheld 
by the Constitutional Court, which resulted in a significant 
number of dismissals in the scientific and academic 
communities.  Parliament also annulled census results in two 
towns in the southwest, on the questionable basis that citizens 
there had beeen pressured into declaring themselves ethnic 
Turkish.  Overall, little progress was made toward passing 
legislation needed to implement the rights enshrined in the 
Constitution or toward establishing a clear judicial basis for 
addressing human rights complaints.  


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no confirmed reports of political or extrajudicial 
killing in 1993.  Three prisoners who killed a guard while 
escaping were recaptured and reportedly beaten to death.  The 
Government and a human rights nongovernmental organization 
(NGO) are investigating the incident.  One policeman was 
convicted of wrongful death in the shooting of an ethnic 
Turkish individual who lived in the Gypsy community, although 
his conviction was overturned by a higher court.  

One Bulgarian human rights group alleged that the 1992 death of 
MRF deputy Svilen Kapsuzov in an automobile accident was a case 
of political murder.  No direct evidence of murder emerged 
during the trial, although circumstantial evidence lent some 
credence to the charge.  The driver of the car which struck 
Kapsuzov's car, reportedly a former state security agent, was 
convicted of involuntary manslaughter.  A parliamentary 
commission charged with investigating the case neither 
confirmed nor dismissed the allegations.  

Many observers expressed concern about the fatal shootings by 
police of two Iranians suspected of being involved with a drug 
ring and of being responsible for the earlier death of two 
policemen.  The shootings, and the Ministry of Interior's 
handling of the brief investigation which followed, led some 
observers to question whether the intent of the police was to 
apprehend the suspects or to seek revenge for the deaths of 
their fellow officers.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reported instances of disappearance.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution expressly prohibits torture, cruel, inhuman, 
or degrading treatment, forcible assimilation, and subjection 
to medical, scientific, or other experimentation without 

A number of credible reports described police beatings of 
Gypsies during arrest and mistreatment during incarceration.  
In one particularly egregious case, police arrested on 
suspicion of attempted theft a 33-year-old male Gypsy and 
brutally beat him during interrogation.  Doctors later told 
local human rights representatives that his injuries--several 
broken ribs on both sides of his chest--most probably resulted 
from kicks.  Doctors later surgically removed part of the 
victim's lung and kidney.  The Government is conducting an 
investigation.  In another case, a 14-year-old Gypsy was 
severely beaten upon arrest; the local prosecutor's office 
declined to initiate an investigation.  To date, no police have 
been convicted and punished for brutality against minorities.

In April in the town of Novi Pazar, a force of more than 50 
police arrived at approximately 4 a.m. without a written search 
warrant and forcibly entered a number of homes in search of 
suspected criminals.  Police were dressed in plainclothes or 
camouflage uniforms, and some wore masks.  According to 
witnesses, the police failed to identify themselves.  Witnesses 
reported that police indiscriminately beat men, women, and 
children of the Gypsy community.  Fifty arrests were made.  The 
Government initiated no investigation of the incident.  By the 
end of the year, all but six of the detainees had been charged 
with minor crimes and released on bail or on their own 

A Ministry of Interior investigation into a similar case in 
Pazarjik in 1992 was concluded in 1993.  The Ministry announced 
it had found no evidence of serious transgressions but declined 
requests to release the report for examination by independent 

Conditions in some prisons are substandard, although they do 
not appear to threaten life or health, and overcrowding 
problems eased in 1993.  Prisoners' complaints received media 
coverage and in some cases resulted in improved treatment.  The 
Government cooperated with requests by NGO's to monitor prison 

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution provides for access to legal counsel from the 
time of detention.  Judicial authorities must rule on the 
legality of a detention within 24 hours.  Defendants have the 
right to visits by family members, to examine evidence, and to 
know the charges against them.  Charges may not be made public 
without the permission of the chief prosecutor.  Pretrial 
detention is limited to 2 months under normal circumstances, 
although this may be extended to 6 months at the discretion of 
the chief prosecutor, who may also restart the process.

Approximately 30 percent of Bulgaria's 8,000 prison inmates are 
in pretrial detention (see Section 1.c.).  In the event of a 
conviction, time spent in pretrial detention is credited toward 
the sentence.  The Constitution provides for bail, and some 
detainees have been released under this provision, although 
bail is not widely used.

Neither internal nor external exile is used as a form of 

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

Under the Constitution, the judiciary is granted independent 
and coequal status with the legislature and executive branch.  
The court system consists of regional courts, district courts, 
the Supreme Court, and the Constitutional Court.  A Supreme 
Court of Cassation, provided for in the Constitution, has not 
yet been established.  The Constitution stipulates that all 
court hearings shall be public unless the proceedings involve 
state security or state secrets.  There were no reported 
complaints about limited access to courtroom proceedings.  
Defendants have the right to know the charges against them and 
are given ample time to prepare a defense.  They are considered 
innocent until proven guilty and are guaranteed the right of 
appeal which is widely used.  Defendants in criminal 
proceedings have the right to confront witnesses and to have an 
attorney, provided by the State, if necessary, in serious cases.

The Constitutional Court rules on matters of constitutionality.
The Supreme Court serves as a court of appeal for cases not 
directly constitutional in nature.  Military courts handle 
cases involving military personnel and some cases involving 
national security matters.  The Constitutional Court does not 
have specific jurisdiction in matters of military justice.

Most observers agreed that the judiciary, while generally 
independent, struggled with continuing problems in 1993. 
Judicial salaries were relatively low, and many positions 
remained unfilled, creating a heavy backlog of cases and 
sparking complaints that pretrial detention was excessively 
lengthy.  Partly as a legacy of communism, and partly because 
of the court system's structural and personnel problems, the 
public at large has little confidence in the judicial system.  
Many credible legal experts from Parliament, as well as voices 
on the Constitutional Court, condemned attempts, spearheaded by 
the BSP in late October, to amend the current law on the 
judiciary while a reform judiciary law was already in its 
second reading.  These experts noted that the amendments would 
establish intrusive legislative branch control over the tenure 
of judges in office.  They noted further that the proposed 
amendments' qualifications for service as Chief Prosecutor or 
as a member of the High Judicial Council, the judiciary's 
policymaking body, required such a long term of prior legal 
service that only jurists and judges who had served during the 
era of former Communist dictator Todor Zhivkov would be 
eligible.  Observers objected as well to the irregular way in 
which the BSP and its supporters voted the amendments out of 
committee in the absence of a quorum for the vote.  The 
amendments passed a first reading the early November.  They may 
be subsumed under the reform judiciary law.

A number of criminal cases against former Communist leaders 
were carried forward in 1993.  Some observers characterized 
these indictments as part of the democratization process, while 
others viewed the trials as politically motivated.  Todor 
Zhivkov appealed his 1992 conviction for abuse of power 
involving personal expense accounts and state privileges.  In 
August he was indicted on a charge of embezzlement for giving 
grant aid to Communist regimes in other countries; 10 other 
former leaders, including former Prime Minister Andrei Lukanov, 
were also indicted in the "Moscow case."  Some human rights 
observers criticized these indictments, asserting the 
activities in question were political and economic decisions, 
not criminal acts.  The Chief Prosecutor responded that the 
transfer of funds had been carried out without parliamentary 
approval and was thus illegal.  In another case, former Prime 
Minister Georgi Atanasov and former Minister of Economy and 
Planning Stoyan Ovcharov were convicted of embezzlement of 
state funds and sentenced to 10 and 9 years in prison, 
respectively.  The Supreme Court upheld these convictions, and 
both men went to prison.

The first indictments relating to the forced assimilation and 
expulsion of ethnic Turks in 1984-85 and 1989 were handed down, 
and a trial began for five defendants who were members of the 
security services.  The Chief Prosecutor asked Parliament to 
strip BSP MP Dimitur Velev of his immunity in this case, but 
Parliament declined.  Former dictator Zhivkov, former Prime 
Minister Atanasov, and former Interior Minister Dimitur 
Stoyanov were indicted and are scheduled to go on trial in 
February 1994.  Another criminal trial was launched in 
connection with the notorious prison camps set up by the 
Communists after they came to power in 1944.  The defense 
claimed that the statute of limitations had expired and two of 
the five original defendants have died, but proceedings in a 
regional court continued against the remaining three.  Finally, 
two former Communist party leaders were convicted of failing to 
inform the public of health dangers related to the Chernobyl 
nuclear reactor accident and received short prison terms.

The Constitutional Court upheld the controversial 1992 
lustration act, the Law for Additional Requirements toward 
Scientific Organizations and the Higher Certifying Commission, 
or "Panev law".  Under this law, former secretaries and members 
of Communist party committees are barred from positions as 
academic council members, university department heads, deans, 
rectors, and chief editors of science magazines.  Several 
hundred people reportedly lost positions under this law.  Some 
of these acknowledged past Communist associations, while others 
were dismissed for refusing to sign a declaration saying they 
had had no such associations.  The Panev law applies a 
presumption of collective guilt that is clearly in conflict 
with international human rights standards.

The Penal Procedural Code gives prosecutors the right to remove 
appointed and elected officials with little satisfactory 
recourse.  A local prosecutor removed the mayor of Satovcha 
from office on charges he had falsified documents and abused 
his administrative powers by intimidating Pomaks (Muslims of 
Slavic ancestry) into changing their names from Slavic to 
Turkish versions.  The charge of intimidation was later 
dropped, and the mayor appealed his suspension to the court.  
The appeal was unsuccessful, and in November he was formally 

Human rights groups complain that local prosecutors and 
magistrates sometimes fail to pursue vigorously crimes 
committed against minorities.  Bulgaria has no political 
prisoners, although it appears that political motives lie 
behind some indictments of former Communist leaders.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

The Constitution stipulates inviolability of the home, protects 
the freedom and confidentiality of correspondence, and provides 
for the right to choose one's place of work and residence.  A 
bill regulating police activities was passed and went into 
effect in December.  Several human rights groups made credible 
charges that the new law, which allows police under some 
circumstances to enter homes without first obtaining a warrant, 
was unconstitutional because it provided excessively broad 
powers of search and entry.  Compared to previous years, there 
were few charges of illegal monitoring of correspondence or 
telephone conversations during 1993.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution prohibits censorship of the press and mass 
media.  The variety of newspapers published by political 
parties and other organizations represented the full spectrum 
of political opinion.  Foreign newspapers circulated without 
hindrance, and Turkish-language newspapers appeared regularly.  
A Gypsy-language paper stopped publishing for financial 
reasons.  One exception to freedom of the press was the 
confiscation of newspapers published by the illegal ethnic 
Macedonian group UMO-Ilinden (see Section 2.b.).  Some 
self-censorship exists among journalists who must conform to 
what are often heavily politicized editorial views.  In other 
cases, large financial groups that hold interests in several 
nominally independent newspapers intervened directly to control 
editorial content.

A new Penal Code article makes it a crime to publish 
information about the activities of internal security police.  
Although not invoked during 1993, the article represents a 
potential stifling of press freedom.

Television remains a state monopoly under parliamentary 
supervision.  Two channels broadcast in Bulgarian, while a 
third broadcasts Russian programming. Foreign government radio 
programs such as British Broadcasting Corporation and Voice of 
America had unrestricted access to commercial Bulgarian radio 
frequencies.  Television and radio news programs present 
opposition views but are generally seen as being biased in 
favor of the Government.  There are no formal restrictions on 
programming.  Some political groups complained that coverage 
was one-sided, although they acknowledged that their 
representatives were interviewed regularly.  Opinion polls rate 
television as the most credible news source.  Both television 
and radio provide a variety of news and public interest 
programming, including talk shows and public opinion shows.

The Berov Government fired a number of high-level media and 
communications figures.  Some of the firings were in 
retaliation for what it described as antigovernment political 
activity, while others were a clear attempt to impose stricter 
controls over the political content of broadcasts.  Among those 
dismissed were Stefan Sofianski, head of posts and 
telecommunications, Acen Agov, General Director of National 
Television, and Ivo Indjev, director of the Bulgarian Telegraph 
Agency.  When the High Court ruled that, as a government 
employee, Indjev could only be fired by Parliament, Parliament 
voted to remove him legislatively.  The cumulative effect of 
these firings was to raise questions about the Berov 
Government's commitment to freedom of the electronic media.

Approximately 30 independent radio stations are licensed in 
Bulgaria.  Some Turkish-language broadcasting takes place.  
Radio transmitter facilities are owned by the Government.  
Applications were solicited to operate cable television and 
radio throughout the country.

Private book publishing remained lively in 1993, with more than 
50 publishers in business.  Academic freedom, with the notable 
exception of the Panev law described in Section 1.e., continued 
in 1993.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for the right to peaceful and unarmed 
assembly.  Permits are required for rallies and assemblies held 
outdoors, and most legally registered organizations were 
routinely granted permission to assemble.  However, several 
religious groups reported difficulties obtaining permits for 
outdoor assemblies.  The Sofia municipality reportedly denied 
an evangelical group a march permit in September on the grounds 
the march might spark violent protests by those opposed to 
"foreign" religious groups.  Some religious groups also had 
difficulties renting assembly halls to which they had 
previously had access.  Vigorous political rallies and 
demonstrations were a common occurrence during 1993 and took 
place without governmental interference.

Bulgaria, as a member state of the Conference on Security and 
Cooperation in Europe, has undertaken to respect the right of 
individuals and groups freely to establish their own political 
parties or other political organizations.  Despite this 
undertaking, there are constitutional and statutory 
restrictions on such activity that limit the right of 
association and meaningful participation in the political 
process.  For example, the Constitution prohibits organizations 
that threaten the country's territorial integrity or unity or 
that incite racial, ethnic, or religious hatred.  In 1990 the 
Government denied registration as a legal organization to a 
Macedonian rights group, UMO-Ilinden, on the grounds it was 
separatist, and also denied a subsequent appeal.  Police 
forcibly broke up attempts by its members during 1993 to hold 
public meetings.  One of UMO-Ilinden's leaders, George 
Solunski, was arrested in June on a charge of attempted murder 
following an incident in which he allegedly fired a shot at a 
political opponent.  The murder charge was later dropped, and 
Solunski was charged instead with "hooliganism" and possession 
of a small amount of ammunition in his house without a permit.  
He remained in pretrial detention at year's end, which is 
uncommon for the charge.  TMO-Ilinden, a related cultural group 
which was legally registered and operated freely in 1992, had 
its registration suspended at the Chief Prosecutor's request.  
The suspension was justified on the basis that elements of the 
group's statutes failed to conform with the law, although the 
Chief Prosecutor's public statements suggested it was actually 
because of the group's alleged separatist activities.

The Constitution forbids the formation of political parties 
along religious, ethnic, or racial lines.  It prohibits 
"citizens' associations" from engaging in political activity.  
These restrictions were used in 1991 to challenge the 
legitimacy of one of the three leading political parties, the 
MRF, which has a mainly ethnic Turkish constituency but which 
is working to broaden its appeal and electoral base to become a 
national party.  A Constitutional Court ruling in 1991 
preserved the party's legal status, but the Court's decision 
was taken with less than the full bench.  Some legal observers 
believe the Court's ruling was definitive, while others think 
the MRF remains vulnerable to a new challenge to its legal 

A Gypsy party, also denied registration in 1991 on the grounds 
it was ethnically based, chose not to challenge this stricture 
in 1993.  A party which professes to represent the interests of 
Bulgaria's Pomak population was registered as a political 
party, although its legal status may also be open to challenge.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The ability of some religious groups to operate freely came 
under attack in Bulgaria in 1993.  Early in the year, there was 
wide public support for the decision of the Berov Government to 
deny entry to a planeload of Swedish evangelists who arrived at 
Sofia airport without visas.  In the wake of that incident and 
extensive press reporting which painted lurid and often 
inaccurate pictures of the activities of non-Orthodox religious 
groups, missionaries began to report harassment.  Specific 
problems included difficulties in obtaining visas and residence 
permits and, in one case, a bomb threat against the opening of 
an evangelical Bible college.  Hare Krishna followers, 
physically assaulted in the street and the subject of threats, 
reportedly had difficulty obtaining adequate police 
protection.  A neighborhood organization in Sofia has 
petitioned for their eviction.  M.P.'s from both the UDF and 
BSP supported this call.

The Constitution designates Eastern Orthodox Christianity as 
the "traditional" religion of Bulgaria.  Religious bodies must 
register with the Directorate of Religious Affairs, or with the 
courts as a citizens' association.  No group was denied 
registration, and more than 30 are officially recognized.  A 
number of major religious bodies, including the Muslim and 
Jewish communities, receive government financial support.  
There were no restrictions on attendance at religious services 
or on private religious instruction.  A school for imams, a 
Muslim cultural center, university theological faculties, and 
religious primary schools operated freely.  Many new mosques 
were constructed, especially in the southern regions.  Bibles 
and other religious materials in the Bulgarian language were 
freely imported and printed.  Muslim, Catholic, and Jewish 
publications were published on a regular basis.

The 1992 schism in the Orthodox Church appeared to move toward 
resolution in 1993, as the Government drew back from 
involvement in the controversy which erupted under the previous 

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Freedom of movement within the country and the right to leave 
it are constitutionally enshrined and not limited in practice.  
Every citizen has the right to return to Bulgaria, may not be 
forcibly expatriated, and may not be deprived of citizenship 
acquired by birth.  A number of former political emigrants were 
granted passports and returned to visit or live in Bulgaria.  
Bulgaria concluded agreements with Poland and Germany for the 
repatriation of thousands of Bulgarians illegally resident in 
those countries.

Bulgarian law provides for granting asylum to persons 
persecuted for their opinions and activities based on standards 
in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and 
its 1967 Protocol.  Parliament in April approved an amendment 
to remove geographical restrictions on Bulgaria's ratification 
of the Convention and the Protocol.  To date, Bulgaria has 
received few requests for asylum and more often serves as a 
transit point for third-country nationals seeking to travel to 
the west.  Official estimates of the number of illegal aliens 
resident in Bulgaria, ranging from 12,000 to 30,000, appear to 
be exaggerated.  A Bureau of Territorial Asylum and Refugees 
was staffed and funded in 1993 and was to begin processing 
applications for refugee status by early 1994.  Approximately 
100 persons fleeing the conflict in the former Yugoslavia are 
resident in Bulgaria and have received assistance from the 
Government and the United Nations High Commissioner for 

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Citizens have and exercise the right to change their government 
and head of state through the election of the President and 
members of the National Assembly, but restrictions on parties 
based on religious, ethnic, or racial identities have the 
effect of circumscribing access to the political process (see 
Section 2.b.).  The most recent parliamentary elections took 
place in October 1991, when more than 40 parties and coalitions 
participated.  At the same time, Bulgarians voted in the first 
multiparty elections for local government since the Communist 
era.  In January 1992, incumbent (appointed) President Zhelyu 
Zhelev was elected in Bulgaria's first direct presidential 

A parliamentary commission charged with an investigation into 
the 1991 elections failed to reach a consensus.  UDF members of 
the commission complained that vote fraud had taken place.  
Other members of the commission disputed this charge, and 
independent election observers opined the supporting evidence 
was inconclusive.

The Constitution provides for unicameral parliamentary 
elections by secret ballot.  The 240 parliamentary deputies are 
elected by a proportional system from party lists.  Their term 
is for 4 years, although the Constitution provides for earlier 
elections if Parliament is unable to agree on a government.  
Suffrage is universal at the age of 18.

A distinct separation of powers exists between the Government 
(Prime Minister and Cabinet) and the President, who is Chief of 
State.  The President has limited powers and is elected for a 
term of 5 years.  During 1993, as part of ongoing political 
disputes, some BSP figures, as well as hard-line elements 
within the UDF, complained that the President had exceeded his 
constitutional powers.  Another challenge to the President's 
power took place during the summer when the UDF mounted a 
series of anti-Presidential strikes, but there were resolved 
through peaceful negotiation.

There are no restrictions in law or practice on the 
participation of women in government.  A number of women hold 
elected and appointed office at high levels, including 
approximately 15 percent of parliamentary seats.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

An increasing number of local and international human rights 
groups operated freely in Bulgaria in 1993.  A Bulgarian 
chapter of Helsinki Watch founded in 1992 was formally 
affiliated with the international organization in 1993.  This 
group should not be confused with the self-proclaimed Helsinki 
Watch headed by Rumen Vodenicharov, a member of the 1990-91 
Grand National Assembly, whose group has a strongly 
nationalistic flavor.  Another group, the Helsinki Citizens 
Alliance, actively investigated police-Gypsy clashes and 
developed a working relationship with the Ministry of the 
Interior.  In general, the Government cooperated well with 
NGO's and human rights groups, although such groups often 
encountered difficulty working with local authorities.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution provides for individual rights, equality, and 
protection against discrimination.  In practice, some instances 
of discrimination still exist, particularly against Gypsies.


Most organizations defending women's interests are closely 
associated with political parties or have primarily 
professional agendas.  One nationwide group, the Women's 
Democratic Union of Bulgaria, is heir to the women's group 
which existed under the Zhivkov dictatorship.  This group 
addresses itself primarily to creating employment opportunities 
for women.  The Constitution forbids privileges or restrictions 
of rights on the basis of sex.  However, women face 
discrimination both in terms of recruitment and the likelihood 
of layoffs.  Official figures show the rate of unemployment for 
women to be 2.6 percent higher than that for men, and this gap 
appears to be widening.  Some observers believe the Labor Code 
provides relatively limited protection for pregnant women and 
women with small children, although the labor inspection unit 
of the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare has issued a 
written directive bolstering this protection.  While women are 
equally likely to receive university education, some single 
mothers report difficulty in finding housing, either for 
financial reasons or because their needs are perceived to be 
less compelling than those of men.  

The courts prosecute rape, although it remains an underreported 
crime because some stigma still attaches to the victim.  The 
maximum sentence for rape is 8 years; convicted offenders often 
receive a lesser sentence or early parole.  Marital rape is a 
crime but rarely prosecuted.  There are no figures on the 
occurrence of domestic violence, and no evidence, either 
anecdotal or otherwise, that it is either pervasive or 
increasing.  No organizations or government agencies exist 
specifically to provide support to victims of domestic violence.


The Government appears to be committed to protecting children's 
welfare.  It maintains, for example, a sizable network of 
orphanages throughout the country.  Government efforts in 
education and health, however, have been constrained by serious 
budgetary limitations.  The vast majority of Bulgaria's 
approximately 1 1/2 million children are free from societal 
abuse.  Some Gypsy children, particularly those who were 
homeless or abandoned, were beaten by "skinhead" groups.  The 
Helsinki Citizens' Alliance initiated a program to work with 
Gypsy children.  There were reports, so far unsubstantiated, 
that police sexually abused Gypsy minors; to date, there has 
been no response to the reports and no investigation.  Some 
Gypsy minors were reportedly forced into prostitution by family 
or community members.  

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Ethnic Turks and Gypsies make up the two largest minorities, 
each constituting between 6 and 9 percent of the population.  
The overwhelming majority of ethnic Turks are Sunni Muslims, 
although there are scattered Shi'ite villages in the eastern 
Balkan range and Rhodope mountains; relations are amicable 
between the two communities.  Pomaks constitute the other 
sizable minority, comprising about 2-3 percent of the 
population.  Sometimes referred to as Bulgarian Muslims, Pomaks 
are a distinct people of Slavic descent whose ancestors 
converted to Islam; most are Muslim, although a handful have 
become atheists or converted to Christianity.  

Economic migration to Turkey continued, although at a reduced 
pace due to increased border controls implemented by Turkey.  
The MRF, supported by the Podkrepa trade union confederation, 
launched a series of strikes in the fall, protesting low 
purchase prices for tobacco.  While some MRF leaders accused 
the Government of using economic means deliberately to drive 
ethnic Turks out of the country, the Government's decision to 
retain control of tobacco purchasing appeared to be motivated 
by a desire to obtain revenues.  The Ministry of Labor prepared 
plans to relieve unemployment in hard-hit minority areas in the 
south and northwest, but these plans had not been put into 
operation by year's end.

There are no restrictions on the practice of Muslim religious 
traditions, the speaking of Turkish in public, or the use of 
non-Slavic names.  A government-funded program which paid 
administrative costs for those who wished to take 
Turkish-version names ended in November.  Some ethnic Turks 
protested that the program should be extended, but this appears 
to be an administrative rather than a human rights issue.  
Voluntary Turkish-language classes continued and expanded in 
areas with significant Turkish-speaking populations, and more 
than 400 teachers graduated from Turkish training in institutes 
in Kurjali and Shumen.  By year's end, only 17,000 ethnic 
Turkish students throughout the country were believed to be 
without access to Turkish-language classes.  Most complaints 
about language classes by ethnic Turks stemmed from a desire 
either to have more hours per week of such classes or to make 
them compulsory in largely ethnic Turkish areas.

The results of a census conducted in December 1992 caused 
controversy.  Those who consider themselves ethnic Macedonians 
complained they were unable to identify themselves as such on 
the census form.  Others, especially members of the BSP and the 
Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO), accused 
members of the ethnic Turkish community of "forcible 
Turkification," i.e., pressuring members of the Muslim 
community to declare themselves ethnic Turks and take Turkish 
names.  On the basis of an investigation into these charges, 
Parliament in September annulled census results in two towns in 
the southwest.  Independent observers found community and peer 
pressure but no evidence of forcible Turkification.  There were 
credible reports that some Muslim religious figures refused to 
bury Muslims with Slavic names, which some observers saw as an 
encroachment on religious freedom.

In the 1992 census, approximately 3.4 percent of the population 
identified itself as Gypsy (Roma), although the real number is 
believed to be much higher since many individuals of Gypsy 
descent tend to identify themselves as ethnic Turks or ethnic 
Bulgarians to the authorities.  Gypsy groups continued to be 
divided among themselves, although a newly formed federation 
had some success in presenting national Gypsy issues to the 
Government.  As individuals and as an ethnic group, Gypsies 
faced apparently rising levels of discrimination.  Several 
local citizens' groups with antiethnic agendas attacked Gypsy 
clubs and neighborhoods.  Many newspapers routinely attribute 
crimes to Gypsies before any formal investigation has taken 
place.  The quality of Gypsy housing is relatively poor, with 
many houses still lacking water, electricity, and sewage 
facilities.  Gypsies reportedly encounter difficulties applying 
for social benefits.  Rural Gypsies are discouraged from 
claiming land to which they are entitled under the law dividing 
up agricultural collectives.  Domestic and international human 
rights groups substantiated a significant number of reports of 
police mistreatment of Gypsies upon arrest and during 
incarceration.  These included severe beatings that resulted in 
serious injuries (see Section 1.c.).

The Government is beginning to recognize the discrimination 
Gypsies face.  The Ministry of Labor launched a pilot 
work-literacy program in Plovdiv, and the Ministry of Education 
introduced a Gypsy-language schoolbook into a number of schools 
in areas with Gypsy populations.  The Ministry of Interior 
launched an investigation into allegations of police brutality 
in Stara Zagora.  The Council of Ministers agreed to set up a 
special governmental council on Gypsy problems.  A number of 
Gypsy police were hired, 10 in Plovdiv alone.  The first 
teachers received Roma-language training, although this program 
lagged far behind its Turkish-language counterpart and ran into 
significant local opposition.

Thousands of Bulgarians, mainly in the southwest, identify 
themselves as Macedonians, most for historical and geographic 
reasons.  Members of the two organizations which purport to 
defend the interests of ethnic Macedonians, UMO-Ilinden and 
TMO-Ilinden, are believed to number in the hundreds (see 
Section 2.b.).

Workplace discrimination against minorities continued to be a 
problem, especially for Gypsies.  Employers justify such 
discrimination on the basis of their relatively low training 
and education levels.  Supervisory jobs are generally given to 
ethnic Bulgarian employees, with ethnic Turks, Pomaks, and, 
particularly, Gypsies often being among the first to be laid 

During compulsory military service most members of minorities 
are shunted into labor units in which they often perform 
civilian as well as military construction and maintenance 
instead of serving in normal military units.  Only a few ethnic 
Turkish officers, and reportedly no Gypsy officers, serve in 
the armed forces.

     People with Disabilities

Disabled persons receive a range of financial assistance, 
including free public transportation, reduced prices on 
modified automobiles, and free equipment such as wheelchairs.  
The Government in 1993 worked with the Union for Handicapped 
Persons to launch a pilot project to improve access to rail 
transportation.  Handicapped persons have access to university 
training and to housing and employment, although no special 
programs are in place to allow them to live up to their full 
employment potential.  To date, little effort has been made to 
change building or street layouts to help blind or otherwise 
handicapped persons.  Also, policies under the previous regime 
that deliberately separated mentally and physically handicapped 
persons, including children, often placing them in institutions 
and workplaces remote from the larger cities, have persisted.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The 1991 Constitution guarantees the right of all workers to 
form or join trade unions of their own choice.  This right 
appears to have been freely exercised in 1993.  Estimates of 
the unionized share of the work force range from 30 to 50 
percent.  This share is shrinking as large firms lay off 
workers, and most new positions appear in small, nonunionized 

Bulgaria has two large trade union confederations, the 
Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Bulgaria (CITUB), 
and Podkrepa.  CITUB, the successor to the trade union 
controlled by the former Communist regime, now appears to 
operate as an independent entity.  Podkrepa, the independent 
confederation created in 1989, was one of the earliest 
opposition forces but is no longer a member of the UDF.  The 
two confederations work together on some tactical issues, 
particularly in the country's tripartite body, the National 
Social Council, which includes employers and government.  
Podkrepa's founder, Dr. Konstantin Trenchev, continued to play 
an active role in union and political affairs despite being 
indicted in a criminal investigation concerning a fire in the 
former security service headquarters.

Military, police, energy production and supply, and health 
sectors are defined as essential services, and workers in these 
sectors are restricted from striking.  The National Social 
Council played a major role in political life in 1993, 
determining pension levels, the minimum wage, and cost-of-
living adjustments.  It also considered legislation which had 
an impact on labor and agreed on a split of union property 
between the two main labor confederations.

The Labor Code passed in December 1992 recognizes the right to 
strike when other means of conflict resolution have been 
exhausted, but political strikes are forbidden.  Only one major 
national strike took place in 1993, a miners' strike called in 
December which had not been resolved at the end of the year.  A 
teachers' strike was resolved with some concessions by the 
Government, as were local strikes by arms production workers 
and transport workers.  Legal actions initiated against some 
unions in 1992 on the grounds that their activities violated 
the constitutional prohibition against political activities by 
citizens' associations (defined to include trade unions) were 
still pending at year's end.  Until the limitations of this 
constitutional clause are more clearly defined, either by 
legislation or judicial precedent, inappropriate attacks on 
legitimate union activities will likely continue.

On a first reading, the International Labor Organization's 
(ILO) Committee of Experts expressed satisfaction with the 
Labor Code's provisions barring job discrimination.  Noting two 
Constitutional Court rulings which found that legislation 
excluding Communist party officials from elective positions on 
the boards of banks and excluding employment in a management 
position of a Communist organization as counting for 
pensionable services were in violation of Convention 111, the 
COE requested further information on lustration proceedings, on 
measures directed at compensating ethnic Turks for abuses under 
the previous regime, on efforts taken to improve the economic 
condition of minorities, and on measures to promote equality of 
workplace opportunity between men and women.  The Committee on 
Freedom of Association rejected CITUB's contention that a 1991 
law confiscating the assets acquired by Communist organizations 
since 1944 violated the principles of freedom of association, 
but stated that this should not include voluntary contributions 
paid by CITUB members since 1990 and urged the Government to 
settle the trade union assets question in consultation with the 
trade unions.  There are no restrictions on affiliation or 
contact with international labor organizations, and Bulgarian 
unions actively exercise this right.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Labor Code institutes collective bargaining, which was 
practiced both nationally and on a local level.  Only Podkrepa 
and CITUB are authorized to bargain collectively.  This led to 
complaints by smaller unions, which may in individual 
workplaces have more members than either of the two large 
confederations.  Smaller unions also complained that they were 
excluded from the National Social Council.  

The Labor Code's prohibitions against antiunion discrimination 
include protection against dismissal as a form of retribution 
for a period of 6 months.  While these provisions appear to be 
within international norms, there is no specific mechanism for 
resolving complaints, and the burden of proof in such a case 
rests entirely on the employee.  There were no cases in which 
an employer was found guilty of antiunion discrimination and 
required to reinstate workers fired for union activities.  The 
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions charged that 
the revised Labor Code does not provide effective protection 
against acts of antiunion discrimination.  It also categorized 
the "national representation" requirement as constituting a 
substantive violation of the right to organize and criticized 
the provision making negotiation of individual contracts 
possible regardless of existing collective agreements.  The 
same obligation of collective bargaining and adherence to labor 
standards prevails in Bulgaria's export processing zones which, 
at year's end, appear to exist only on paper.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor.  Some 
observers suggested that the practice of shunting military 
draftees who are members of minorities or conscientious 
objectors into work units that sometimes work on civilian 
construction projects could be considered a form of forced 
labor (Section 5).

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Labor Code sets the minimum age for employment at 16; the 
minimum for dangerous work is set at 18.  Employers and the 
Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare are responsible for 
enforcing these provisions.  Child labor laws are enforced well 
in the formal sector.  Some underage employment occurs in the 
informal and agricultural sectors, although the practice is 
neither widespread nor systematic.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The National Social Council adjusted the minimum wage on 
several occasions in 1993, although not enough to keep pace 
with inflation.  At the end of the year it stood at 
approximately $45 (1,434 leva) a month.  Inflation in 1993, 
estimated at 65 percent, dramatically increased the cost of 
living.  The minimum wage is not enough for a single wage 
earner to provide a decent standard of living for a family.  
The Constitution stipulates the right to social security and 
welfare aid and assistance for the temporarily unemployed.  

The Labor Code provides for a standard workweek of 40 hours, 
with at least one 24-hour rest period per week.  Enforcement is 
the responsibility of the Ministry of Labor and Social 
Welfare.  Enforcement is effective in the state sector but much 
weaker in the emerging private sector.

Bulgaria has a national labor safety program with standards 
established by the Labor Code.  The Constitution states that 
employees are entitled to healthy and nonhazardous working 
conditions.  The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare is 
responsible for enforcing these provisions.  Under the Labor 
Code, an employee has the right to remove himself from a work 
situation which presents a serious or immediate danger to life 
or health without jeopardizing continued employment.  In 
practice, refusal to work in situations with relatively high 
accident rates or associated chronic health problems would 
result in loss of employment for many workers.  Conditions 
appear to be worsening owing to budget stringencies and a 
growing private sector in which labor inspectors have not yet 
made a concerted effort, due in part to the difficulty in 
locating the many small unlicensed businesses which do not pay 
taxes and do not have other links to government entities.

[end of document]


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