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TITLE:  BULGARIA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995









                            BULGARIA


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 1992 to 
a 5-year term in the country's first direct presidential 
elections.  Prime Minister Lyuben Berov, who headed the 
government after the fall of the UDF government in 1992, lacked 
a stable parliamentary majority during 1993 and 1994 and was 
forced to depend on the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), heir 
to the Communist party, for much of his support.  Nevertheless, 
he resigned in September.  When the sitting parliament failed 
to form a new cabinet, President Zhelev dissolved the 
Parliament, called for new parliamentary elections in December, 
and appointed a caretaker Government for the interim.  Results 
of the December 18 elections gave the BSP an absolute majority 
in Parliament.

Most security services are the responsibility of the Ministry 
of the Interior, which controls the police, National Security 
Service (NSS--civilian counterintelligence), internal security 
troops, border guards, and special forces.  The President 
oversees the National Intelligence Service (foreign 
intelligence).  In June Parliament passed a bill regulating NSS 
activities.  There were some allegations of police abuse toward 
Roma.

The transformation of a centrally planned economy into a 
market-oriented system has been retarded by continued political 
and social resistance.  The service and consumer goods sectors 
in private hands continued to grow, but progress in the 
privatization of large and medium-sized state enterprises was 
very slow.  Integration with Western security and economic 
structures continued, and an association agreement with the 
European Union entered into force.  The Government reached 
agreement with its commercial creditors to restructure 
$8 billion of defaulted commercial debt, concluded a standby 
agreement with the International Monetary Fund, and negotiated 
structural adjustment loans with the World Bank.

The Government generally respected freedom of speech, press, 
association, assembly, and travel, but xenophobia, nationalism, 
and antiethnic expression grew markedly among the population at 
large.  Government actions and the rising level of public 
intolerance significantly interfered with the activities of 
some non-Eastern Orthodox religious groups.  Police beatings of 
Roma during arrest continued, albeit on a reduced scale; there 
were no reports that the Government tried and convicted any of 
the perpetrators.  Private citizens increasingly attacked Roma 
and other minority groups.  The Constitution's provisions 
against ethnically based political parties continued to hamper 
political expression.  Parliament, over President Zhelev's 
objections, passed a judicial reform bill which could have 
resulted in removal from office of the sitting Chief Prosecutor 
and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, a move eventually 
blocked by a Constitutional Court decision.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

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

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

According to human rights observers and journalists, the body 
of a Pazardzhik resident who died while in police custody 
following an August roundup of suspected criminals in that town 
showed traces of beating on the head and body and burn marks on 
the genitals.  The man died 2 days after his detention during 
the roundup, which was carried out by police from Sofia and 
several other regions of the country.  Police and one human 
rights group have initiated an investigation.

On September 25, a detainee died 1 day after being taken into 
custody by the regional police department of Pleven.  The death 
is attributed to anemia, embolism, and hematoma on the death 
certificate; however, a witness told a human rights 
nongovernmental organization (NGO) that the body displayed 
facial injuries.  The family of the deceased plans to pursue 
the case by requesting an investigation, and police have 
indicated that they would be cooperative.

A police investigation of a 1993 incident in which police 
allegedly beat three escaped prisoners upon recapture, 
initiated in January by the Sofia prosecutor's office, was 
referred to the National Investigative Service in September for 
further investigation.  Two of the prisoners in that incident 
were reportedly beaten to death.  The police have generally 
refused the requests of human rights groups to make reports of 
its investigations public.  The climate of impunity that the 
Government allows to prevail is the single largest obstacle to 
ending such abuses.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reported instances of disappearances.

     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 consent.

There continued to be a number of credible reports, although 
fewer than during 1993, that police beat Roma upon arrest or 
during other confrontations.  Human rights groups also 
complained of police brutality directed at non-Roma citizens.  
To date, the Government has failed to convict and punish any 
police personnel for brutality against civilians.

Conditions in some prisons are substandard, although they do 
not appear to threaten life or health.  Prisoners' complaints 
continued to receive media coverage, which in some cases 
resulted in improved treatment.  The Government cooperated with 
requests by NGO's to monitor prison conditions.

     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 the Chief Prosecutor may extend this to 6 months and 
may also restart the process.

About 30 percent of Bulgaria's approximately 8,500 prison 
inmates are in pretrial detention.  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 or punishment.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution grants the judiciary independent and coequal 
status with the legislative and executive branches.  The court 
system consists of regional courts, district courts, and the 
Supreme and Constitutional Courts.  A 25-member Supreme 
Judicial Council appoints judges who, after serving for 
3 years, are assured of tenure, except under limited, specified 
circumstances.

The Constitutional Court is empowered to rescind legislation it 
considers unconstitutional, settle disputes over the conduct of 
general elections, and resolve conflicts over the division of 
powers between the various branches of government.  Of the
12 justices on the Constitutional Court, whose term of office 
is 9 years, a third are elected by the National Assembly, a 
third appointed by the President, and a third elected by 
judicial authorities.  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.

The Constitution stipulates that all courts shall conduct 
hearings in public unless the proceedings involve state 
security or state secrets.  In one case, the defense lawyer for 
indicted mayor Yusuf Djudjo complained he had been given 
inadequate access to witnesses (see below).  Defendants have 
the right to know the charges against them and are given ample 
time to prepare a defense.  The right of appeal is guaranteed 
and 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.

In June Parliament passed a judicial reform bill which 
established separate Supreme Courts of Cassation (civil and 
criminal appeal) and Administration.  Nearly all observers 
welcomed the law's comprehensive reforms as improvements in the 
judicial system, consistent with the Constitution.  However, 
several elements proved controversial, particularly one 
establishing the requirement that high-level judicial figures, 
including the Chief Prosecutor, the Director of the National 
Investigative Service, and the Presidents of the Supreme Courts 
have not only 15 years' experience within the legal system but 
also 5 years' experience as a judge, prosecutor, investigator, 
or law researcher with academic rank.  In effect, this 
requirement disqualified anyone who had not held such positions 
under the Communist regime, including sitting Chief Justice of 
the Supreme Court Ivan Grigorov and Chief Prosecutor Ivan 
Tatarchev.  Parliament by a majority vote overruled President 
Zhelev's objection to this provision.  The President then 
petitioned the Constitutional Court for a ruling.  The Court 
held that Grigorov and Tatarchev could not be removed from 
office, but that the experience requirement was otherwise valid 
and would apply to future selections for these posts.

Most observers agreed that the judiciary, while generally 
independent, struggled with continuing problems in 1994.  In 
addition to the confusion created by the reform bill, it is 
plagued by relatively low salaries, many unfilled positions, 
and a heavy backlog of cases which sparked complaints that 
pretrial detention is excessively lengthy.  Partly as a legacy 
of communism, and partly because of the court system's 
structural and personnel problems, most citizens have little 
confidence in their judicial system.

A number of criminal cases against former leaders for alleged 
abuses during the Communist period were carried forward in 
1994.  In January a Supreme Court panel upheld the 1992 
conviction of former dictator Todor Zhivkov for abuse of power 
involving personal expense accounts and state privileges.  
Zhivkov's sentence was upheld by one review panel but remains 
suspended pending further supervisory review by the Supreme 
Court.  A second case begun in 1993 involving a charge of 
embezzlement for giving grant aid to Communist parties in other 
countries (the "Moscow case") moved forward slowly.  In another 
case, 43 former high-level Communists were indicted in 1994 for 
having given grant aid during the 1980's to then friendly 
governments in the developing world such as Cuba, Angola, and 
Libya.  Some human rights observers criticized these and 
previous indictments, asserting the activities in question were 
political and economic in nature, not criminal acts.  The Chief 
Prosecutor responded that the transfer of funds had been 
carried out without parliamentary approval and was thus 
illegal.  President Zhelev in August pardoned on grounds of ill 
health former Prime Minister Georgi Atanasov, convicted in 1993 
of embezzlement of state funds, and he was released from 
prison.  Former Minister of Economy and Planning Stoyan 
Ovcharov, convicted on the same charge, remained in prison.

Little progress was made in a case begun in 1993 concerning the 
forced assimilation and expulsion of ethnic Turks in 1984-85 
and 1989.  Human rights groups complain that local prosecutors 
and magistrates sometimes fail vigorously to pursue crimes 
committed against minorities.  In a trial relating to the 
notorious death camps set up by the Communists after they came 
to power in 1944, 3 defendants were charged with the murder of 
14 camp inmates.  A key witness in the case was murdered in 
September, and some speculated that her murder was intended to 
frustrate the prosecution of the case.  Police authorities 
initiated an investigation.  The trial, itself, has been 
delayed further while replacements are found for two jurors.

A controversial 1992 "lustration" act ("Law for Additional 
Requirements Toward Scientific Organizations and the Higher 
Certifying Commission") known as the "Panev law" continued in 
effect in 1994.  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.  By one 
conservative estimate, a total of 1,637 people have lost 
positions in academic institutions alone due to application of 
the Panev Law.  The Act applies a presumption of collective 
guilt that conflicts with international human rights standards.

In October 1993, a local prosecutor removed Satovcha mayor 
Yusuf Djudjo from office on charges that he had falsified 
official documents and abused his administrative powers by 
intimidating Pomaks (Muslims of Slavic ancestry).  The charge 
of intimidation was later dropped for lack of evidence, but 
Djudjo was convicted in 1994 on the charge of falsifying 
documents and given a suspended sentence.  An examination of 
the documents in question suggests that the changes made were 
minor and without significant ethnic implication, e.g., 
changing the name "Asan" to "Hasan," or "Ibraimova" to 
"Ibrahimova."  Despite protests by Djudjo's lawyer that he had 
inadequate access to witnesses, the Supreme Court upheld 
Djudjo's conviction.  Human rights groups, including Amnesty 
International, protested that the proceedings showed clear bias 
against the defendant.  They also complained that provisions in 
the Penal Procedural Code give prosecutors the right to remove 
appointed and elected officials, who have little satisfactory 
recourse.

Bulgaria has no political prisoners, although it appears that 
political motives lie behind some indictments of former 
Communist leaders on a variety of charges.

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

The Constitution provides for 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.  Parliament passed a bill in June regulating the 
activities of the NSS, which is responsible for civilian 
counterintelligence.  The law allows the Interior Minister to 
authorize electronic surveillance for up to 24 hours without 
informing other government agencies, if he determines there is 
imminent danger to national security.  Some human rights groups 
asserted that the Government has carried out unjustified 
surveillance of religious groups and of the outlawed Macedonian 
group UMO-Ilinden (see Section 2.b.).  Labor leader Krustyo 
Petkov charged that security services monitored union 
activities during the period before a threatened general strike 
in May.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution prohibits censorship of the press and mass 
media, and the Government generally respected this prohibition.
The variety of newspapers published by political parties and 
other organizations represented the full spectrum of political 
opinion, and foreign newspapers circulated without hindrance.  
A notable degree of self-censorship exists in the press among 
journalists who believe they must conform to what are often 
heavily politicized editorial views.  Large financial groups 
hold controlling interests in many nominally independent 
national dailies and in some cases intervened directly to 
control editorial content.

Following an October 1993 newspaper article which accused a 
high-level prosecutor of using his position to acquire an 
apartment at a low price, the Chief Prosecutor issued a warrant 
to begin an investigation of the case.  The Union of Bulgarian 
Journalists and human rights groups complained the warrant did 
not specify charges and amounted to an effort to intimidate the 
press.  On March 31, the Sofia Regional Court terminated the 
case for technical reasons, effectively closing the case.  In 
November, the press reported, the Chief Prosecutor's Office 
began a preliminary proceeding against the editor in chief of 
the Bulgarian Socialist Party's daily newspaper, charging him 
with insulting the President in an earlier article.  The 
President said that he did not need the "protective measures" 
taken by the Chief Prosecutor's Office, and the Deputy Chief 
Prosecutor characterized the action as only an "examination" 
rather than a preliminary proceeding.  Nevertheless, some 
observers thought the incident might have a negative effect on 
freedom of the press in Bulgaria.

Most television broadcasting is in state hands and under 
parliamentary supervision.  Two channels broadcast in 
Bulgarian, while a third broadcasts Russian programming, and a 
fourth broadcasts a mixture of Cable News Network, 
international, and French-language programming.  Bulgaria's 
first private television channel received a license in 1993 and 
began limited broadcasting in July 1994.  Foreign government 
radio programs, such as those of the British Broadcasting 
Corporation and the 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 by media journalists.  Both television and radio 
provide a variety of news and public interest programming, 
including talk format and public opinion shows.

More than 30 independent radio stations are licensed in 
Bulgaria.  The Government twice required Radio Aura of the 
American University in Blagoevgrad to stop broadcasting, and it 
complained of harassment; the Government correctly asserted 
that the station was broadcasting beyond its licensed area of 
operations and had never gone through the procedure to obtain 
an appropriate license.  Other private stations complained that 
their licenses unduly restricted the strength of their 
transmissions in comparison to state-owned stations.  Some 
Turkish-language broadcasting takes place.  The Government owns 
all radio transmitter facilities.

Private book publishing remained active, with more than
50 publishers in business.  With the notable exception of the 
Panev law described in Section 1.e., there was continued 
academic freedom.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for the right to peaceful and unarmed 
assembly.  Permits from municipal authorities are required for 
rallies and assemblies held outdoors, and most legally 
registered organizations were routinely granted permission to 
assemble.  Many non-Orthodox religious groups reported 
difficulties obtaining permits for outdoor assemblies as well 
as for renting assembly halls.  Vigorous political rallies and 
demonstrations were a common occurrence and took place without 
government interference.

Bulgaria, as a member state of the Conference on Security and 
Cooperation in Europe, has undertaken to respect the rights of 
individuals and groups freely to establish their own political 
parties or other political organizations.  Despite this 
undertaking, there are constitutional and statutory 
restrictions that limit the right of association and meaningful 
participation in the political process.  For example, Article 
44 of the Constitution prohibits organizations which threaten 
the country's territorial integrity or unity or that incite 
racial, ethnic, or religious hatred.  It barred a Macedonian 
rights group, UMO-Ilinden, from legal registration since 1990 
on the grounds that it espouses separatist views.  Police in 
1994 forcibly broke up its attempts to hold public meetings.  
TMO-Ilinden, a related cultural group, had its legal 
registration suspended in 1993 at the request of the Chief 
Prosecutor.  George Solunski, leader of this group, was 
arrested in June 1993 on a charge of attempted murder for 
allegedly firing a shot at a political opponent.  The murder 
charge was dropped, but Solunski was kept in pretrial detention 
on a charge of hooliganism until January 1994.  The case 
remains open.

The Constitution forbids the formation of political parties 
along religious, ethnic, or racial lines and prohibits 
citizens' associations from engaging in political activity.  
These restrictions were used in 1991 to challenge the 
legitimacy of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), which 
has a mainly Muslim constituency.  A 1991 Constitutional Court 
ruling preserved the party's legal status.  Some observers 
believe the Court's ruling was definitive, while other believe 
the MRF remains vulnerable to a new challenge to its legal 
status.  Its right to compete in the National Assembly 
elections held on December 18 was not challenged.

A Roma party, denied registration in 1991 on the grounds it was 
ethnically based, chose not to challenge this stricture in 
1994.  A party which professes to represent the interests of 
Bulgaria's Pomak (Muslim of Slavic descent) population was 
registered as a political party.  To date, its legal status has 
not been challenged.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The ability of a number of religious groups to operate freely 
came under attack in Bulgaria in 1994, both as a result of 
government action and because of a rising tide of public 
intolerance.  Dozens of articles in a broad range of newspapers 
depicted lurid and inaccurate pictures of the activities of 
non-Orthodox religious groups, attributing teen suicides and 
the breakup of families to the activities of these religious 
groups.

The Government refused visas and residence permits for 
missionaries, and some came under physical attack in the street 
and in their homes.  A skinhead group attacked the Bulgarian 
Church of God in Ruse during a religious service, seriously 
injuring eight people.  Members of the Mormon Church complained 
of continued acts of harassment, with limited, indifferent 
police response.

Credible charges of police complicity were raised by a human 
rights organization and the press in the April 15 shooting 
death of Yordan Tsolov, an Orthodox priest in Surnitsa.  
Reports differ as to why a police officer shot at the priest, 
but a human rights organization cited eyewitness accounts that 
material facts about the case were misreported.  To date, no 
criminal proceedings have been initiated.

Parliament passed amendments to the Families and Persons Act, 
tightening registration requirements for groups whose 
activities had a religious element.  More than 75 groups which 
had originally registered with the courts as civil 
organizations were given 3 months to apply for reregistration 
through the Religious Affairs Directorate.  After review by the 
Directorate and the Council of Ministers, more than two-thirds 
of them were denied legal registration.  Among those turned 
down were a Bulgarian chapter of Gideon International, Jehovah's
Witnesses, and several Muslim groups.  Human rights groups 
protested this action as unconstitutional on the grounds that it
was an executive branch revocation of a judicial branch action 
and that it denied religious freedom.  Gideon International and 
some other groups are reapplying, which they are free to do.

Human rights groups credibly charged that the NSS had conducted 
surveillance and infiltration of religious groups, including 
those legally registered.  A teacher in Karlovo was fired on 
the grounds that she had proselytized students, although she 
claimed she had mentioned her adherence to Jehovah's Witnesses 
only after normal school hours.

The Constitution designates Eastern Orthodox Christianity as 
the "traditional" religion of Bulgaria.  A number of major 
religious bodies, including the Muslim and Jewish communities, 
receive government financial support.  For those religious 
groups that were able to maintain their registration, 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, primarily in the southern regions.  Bibles 
and other religious materials in the Bulgarian language were 
freely imported and printed, and Muslim, Catholic, and Jewish 
publications were published on a regular basis.

The schism which opened in the Orthodox Church in 1992 
persisted in 1994.

     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, 
with the exception that some areas along the border are off 
limits both to foreigners and Bulgarians not resident therein.  
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 pursued agreements with Poland and Germany for the 
repatriation of thousands of Bulgarians illegally resident in 
those countries.

Bulgarian law provides for the granting of asylum to persons 
persecuted for their opinions or activities based on standards 
in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and 
its 1967 Protocol.  Estimates of the number of illegal aliens 
resident in Bulgaria range from 15,000 to 30,000.  Bulgaria 
often serves as a temporary refuge for third-country nationals 
seeking to travel to the West.  Approximately 600 refugees have 
applied for asylum.  A Bureau of Territorial Asylum and 
Refugees, established in 1993, is preparing to process 
applications for refugee status.  Protests by skinhead and 
local citizens' groups, however, have frustrated the Bureau's 
plans to establish a refugee processing center in the Sofia 
area as of November 1, and attempts to locate centers at 
alternate sites in the country have likewise failed.

Approximately 100 to 150 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 Refugees; an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 more 
have not registered officially and are staying with friends and 
relatives.

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

Citizens have the right to change their government and head of 
state through the election of the President and of the members 
of the unicameral National Assembly, although restrictions on 
political parties based on religious, ethnic, or racial 
identities have the effect of circumscribing access to the 
political process (see Section 2.b.).  President Zhelyu Zhelev 
was elected in 1992 in the first direct presidential 
elections.

The most recent parliamentary elections took place in December 
1994 when more than 40 political parties and coalitions 
participated and approximately 75 percent of the electorate 
voted.  The Bulgarian Socialist Party won an absolute majority 
of the 240-seat Parliament, which is to be convened no later 
than 1 month after its election, according to the 
Constitution.  International observers commented that the vote 
was conducted in accordance with free and democratic election 
procedures and in a peaceful, well-organized fashion.  However, 
CSCE and other observers voiced concern about the unequal 
access to the mass media for all political parties, 
particularly to television.

The Constitution provides for 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 preterm 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 Council of Ministers) and the 
President, who is Chief of State.  The President has limited 
powers and is elected for a term of 5 years.

There are no restrictions in law on the participation of women 
in government.  A number of women held elected and appointed 
office at high levels; the Prime Minister of the preelection 
caretaker Government and a Deputy Prime Minister, who also 
served as Finance Minister, were women.  However, women held 
only 15 percent of the seats in the most recent Parliament and 
no Cabinet-level positions in the Berov government.

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

Local and international human rights groups operate freely.  
Among these is the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, founded in 
1992 and formally affiliated with the international Helsinki 
organization in 1993.  A separate group, called Helsinki Watch, 
is not affiliated with the International Helsinki Federation.  
Another group, the Human Rights Project, actively investigated 
police-Roma clashes and made efforts to work with the Ministry 
of the Interior and local officials.  The Government did not 
interfere with the work of NGO's and human rights groups, 
although it was often reluctant to provide information or 
active cooperation.

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

The Constitution provides for individual rights, equality, and 
protection against discrimination, but in practice 
discrimination still exists, particularly against women and 
Roma.

     Women

The Constitution forbids privileges or restrictions of rights 
on the basis of sex.  However, women face discrimination both 
in terms of recruitment for employment and the likelihood of 
layoffs.  Official figures show the rate of unemployment for 
women to be higher than that for men, and this gap appears to 
be widening.  While women are equally likely to attend 
university, some single mothers report difficulty in finding 
housing, either for financial reasons or because their needs 
are perceived to be less compelling.  Women, in the main, 
continue to have primary responsibility for child-rearing and 
housekeeping even if they are employed outside the home.

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 shorter sentence or early parole.  Marital rape is a 
crime but rarely prosecuted.  Human rights and women's groups 
say that domestic abuse is a serious problem, but there are no 
figures, official or otherwise, on its occurrence.  Courts and 
prosecutors tend to view domestic abuse as a family rather than 
criminal problem, and in most cases victims of domestic 
violence take refuge with family or friends rather than 
approaching the authorities.  No government agencies provide 
shelter or counseling for such individuals, and there are no 
active programs to address the problem.

Many of the approximately 30 women's organizations in Bulgaria 
are closely associated with political parties or have primarily 
professional agendas.  Of those which exist mainly to defend 
women's interests, the two largest are the Women's Democratic 
Union of Bulgaria, heir to the group that existed under the 
Zhivkov dictatorship, and the Bulgarian Women's Association, 
which disappeared under communism but has now reemerged and has 
chapters in a number of cities.

     Children

The Government appears to be committed to protecting children's 
welfare.  It maintains, for example, a sizable network of 
orphanages throughout the country.  Groups that exist to defend 
the rights of children charge that an increasing number of 
children are at serious risk because the Government's social 
insurance payments fall farther behind inflation and are often 
disbursed as much as 6 months late.

The vast majority of some 2 million children are free from 
societal abuse, although skinhead groups beat some Roma 
children, particularly the homeless or abandoned.  Some Roma 
minors were forced into prostitution by family or community 
members; there was little police effort to address these 
problem of discrimination.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Ethnic Turks and Roma make up the two largest minorities, each 
constituting from 6 to 9 percent of the population.  Pomaks 
constitute the other sizable minority, comprising 2 to 
3 percent of the population.  Sometimes referred to as 
Bulgarian Muslims, Pomaks are a distinct group of Slavic 
descent whose ancestors converted from Orthodox Christianity to 
Islam.  Most are Muslim, although a handful have become 
atheists or reconverted to Christianity.

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 defense bill before Parliament sparked 
controversy when deputies proposed language that would make use 
of the Bulgarian language mandatory in the military.  MRF 
leaders charged this might lead to harassment of Turkish-
speaking military recruits.  An eventual compromise in the text 
of the draft bill made Bulgarian the official language of the 
military; the Minister of Defense stated publicly that recruits 
who wished to speak Turkish among themselves were free to do so.

Voluntary Turkish-language classes, funded by the Government, 
continued and expanded in areas with significant Turkish-
speaking populations.  Some ethnic Turkish leaders, mainly in 
the MRF, demanded that Turkish-language schooling be made 
compulsory in ethnic Turkish areas, but the Government resisted 
this.  Government regulations issued in September specify that 
pupils may begin study of a non-Bulgarian mother tongue in the 
first grade rather than in the third grade, as had been the 
case previously.

BSP and nationalist figures, as well as members of the Internal 
Macedonian Revolutionary Organization, continued to accuse some 
members of the ethnic Turkish community of "forcible 
Turkification," i.e., pressuring Pomaks to declare themselves 
ethnic Turks and take Turkish names.  Independent observers 
found community and peer pressure but no evidence of forcible 
Turkification.  Reports continued in 1994 that some Muslim 
religious figures refused to perform burial services for 
Muslims with Slavic names, a practice which some observers saw 
as an encroachment on religious freedom.

In the 1992 census, approximately 3.4 percent of the population 
identified itself as Roma.  The real figure is probably at 
least twice that high, since many persons of Roma descent 
prefer to identify themselves to the authorities as ethnic 
Turks or Bulgarians.  Roma groups continued to be divided among 
themselves, although several groups had some success presenting 
Roma issues to the Government.  As individuals and as an ethnic 
group, Roma faced sharply rising levels of discrimination.

A troubling new development in 1994 was a series of attacks by 
private citizens on Roma communities.  The most serious attack 
took place in February in the village of Dolno Belotintsi.  
After a Roma conscript who had deserted his military unit 
apparently committed a murder, inhabitants of the town launched 
a series of attacks upon some 20 Roma families who lived 
there.  Roma houses were broken into and destroyed, and a group 
of men wielding guns and farm tools forced about 30 Roma, 
including children and aged persons, to carry out a forced 
march to a neighboring town and back.  Despite repeated 
complaints by the victims during the 2 days of attacks, local 
police and prosecutors took no action.  Amnesty International 
and Bulgarian human rights groups have charged that the 
Government violated the human rights of these Roma by failing 
to provide them adequate protection.  The home of one family 
was burned to the ground, and the family was housed in 
inadequate temporary quarters at the end of the year.  The 
other families eventually returned to their homes.

Roma encounter difficulties applying for social benefits, and 
rural Roma are discouraged from claiming land to which they are 
entitled under the law dividing up agricultural collectives.  
Most Roma children are directed at age 12 into special schools 
for "vocational training" which severely limit their subsequent 
employment prospects.

Overall, there were fewer reports of police mistreatment of 
Roma than in 1993, but many more instances in which private 
citizen groups attacked Roma.  In some cases police were 
accused of standing by and deliberately failing to intervene.  
A police investigation into 1993 allegations of police 
brutality in Stara Zagora concluded there was no inappropriate 
police behavior, although the American chapter of Helsinki 
Watch, Amnesty International, the Human Rights Project, and the 
Bulgarian Helsinki Committee all concluded that police had 
behaved with brutality.

Recognizing the discrimination that Roma and other minorities 
face, the Council of Ministers set up an interagency Ethnic 
Affairs Council chaired by a deputy prime minister.  The 
Ministry of Education continued its program to introduce 
Roma-language schoolbooks into schools with Roma students, 
albeit slowly.  Roma police were hired in some localities, and 
some teachers received Roma-language training, although this 
program lagged far behind its Turkish-language counterpart and 
ran into significant local opposition.

Workplace discrimination against minorities continued to be a 
problem, especially for Roma.  Employers justify such 
discrimination on the grounds that most Roma have relatively 
low training and education.  Supervisory jobs are generally 
given to ethnic Bulgarian employees, with ethnic Turks, Pomaks, 
and Roma among the first to be laid off.

During compulsory military service, most Muslims and Roma are 
shunted into labor units where they often perform commercial as 
well military construction and maintenance rather than serving 
in normal military units.  The MRF protested this practice, as 
did human rights groups and labor observers who cited it as a 
violation of International Labor Organization (ILO) accords.  
There are only a few ethnic Turkish and reportedly no Roma 
officers in the military.

Thousands of Bulgarians, mainly in the southwest, identify 
themselves as Macedonians, most for historical and geographic 
reasons.  Active 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.).

     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.  
As in other areas, however, budgetary constraints mean that 
such payments have fallen behind.  Handicapped individuals 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 physically handicapped persons.  The policy 
under the previous regime of deliberately separating both 
mentally and physically handicapped persons, including very 
young children, and often placing them in homes and workplaces 
remote from the larger cities, remains unchanged.

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, and this right 
appears to have been freely exercised in 1994.  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 
businesses.

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, operates as an 
independent entity.  Podkrepa, an independent confederation 
created in 1989, was one of the earliest opposition forces but 
is no longer a member of the UDF.

The 1992 Labor Code recognizes the right to strike when other 
means of conflict resolution have been exhausted, but political 
strikes are forbidden.  Workers in essential services such as 
the military, police, energy production and supply, and health 
sectors are prohibited from striking.  Students and miners went 
on strike in 1994 but won no major concessions from the 
Government.  Legal actions initiated against some unions in 
1992 on the grounds their activities had violated the 
constitutional prohibition against political activities by 
citizens' associations (defined to include trade unions) were 
still pending in 1994.  Until the limitations of this 
constitutional prohibition are more clearly defined, either by 
legislation or judicial precedent, there remains the potential 
for inappropriate attacks on legitimate union activities, 
although no such attacks took place in 1994.

The Labor Code's prohibitions against antiunion discrimination 
include a 6-month period of protection against dismissal as a 
form of retribution.  While these provisions appear to be 
within international norms, there is no mechanism other than 
the courts for resolving complaints, and the burden of proof in 
such a case rests entirely on the employee.

The ILO in 1993 requested further information on lustration 
proceedings, measures directed at compensating ethnic Turks for 
abuses under the previous regime, efforts taken to improve the 
economic situation of minorities, and measures to promote 
equality of workplace opportunity between men and women.  At 
the end of 1994, the ILO was still reviewing the information 
provided to it by the Government and had not yet issued 
opinions or recommendations.

There are no restrictions governing 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 nationally and on a local level.  Both CITUB and 
Podkrepa complained, however, that while the legal structure 
for collective bargaining was adequate, many employers failed 
to bargain in good faith or to adhere to concluded agreements.  
Because most large firms are still state owned, the unions 
demanded that the Government enforce collective bargaining 
procedures.  The Government responded that since state-owned 
firms were independently managed, the appropriate recourse was 
through the courts, not the executive branch.

Only Podkrepa and CITUB are authorized to bargain 
collectively.  This restriction led to complaints by smaller 
unions, which may in individual workplaces have more members 
than either of the two large confederations.  One of these 
smaller unions, the National Trade Union, lodged a formal 
complaint with the ILO.  Smaller unions also protested their 
exclusion from the National Social Council.

There were no instances 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 continued to charge that the revised Labor 
Code does not provide effective protection against acts of 
antiunion discrimination.  It also asserted that the "national 
representation" requirement for participation in the National 
Social Council violated the right to organize, and criticized a 
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 the export processing zones, which 
at year's end appear to exist largely on paper.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor.  Many 
observers agreed that the practice of shunting minority and 
conscientious-objector military draftees into work units which 
often carry out commercial construction and maintenance 
projects is a form of forced labor (see Section 5).

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Labor Code sets the minimum age for employment at 16 years; 
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.  Underage employment in the informal and 
agricultural sectors is increasing as collective farms are 
broken up and the private sector continues to grow.  However, 
the practice does not yet seem to be either widespread or 
systematic.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The national monthly minimum wage was adjusted three times in 
1994 and stood at year's end at approximately $33 (2,143 leva). 
Pensions, unemployment, and child benefits were raised by about 
25 percent during the year.  Inflation in 1994 was estimated at 
100 percent and dramatically increased the cost of living.  The 
minimum wage is not enough to provide a wage earner and family 
a decent standard of living.  The Constitution stipulates the 
right to social security and welfare aid assistance for the 
temporarily unemployed, although in practice such assistance 
was often either late or not disbursed.

The Labor Code provides for a standard workweek of 40 hours 
with at least one 24-hour rest period per week.  The Ministry 
of Labor and Social Welfare enforces both the minimum wage and 
the standard workweek.  Enforcement has been generally 
effective in the state sector, although there are reports that 
state-run enterprises fall into arrears on salary payments to 
their employees if they incur losses.  Enforcement of work 
conditions is 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 in 
many cases are worsening owing to budget stringencies and a 
growing private sector over which labor inspectors have not yet 
achieved effective supervision.


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[end of document]

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