Friday, September 30, 2011




Bulgaria: Anti-Roma Demonstrations Spread Across Bulgaria
Pictured: riot ...

30 September 2011

Bulgarian authorities must stop the escalation of violence targeting the Roma community

Amnesty International urges Bulgarian authorities to effectively tackle the escalation of violence which is resulting in racially-motivated attacks against the Roma community in the country.

The Bulgarian authorities have the obligation under international human rights law to ensure the security and the physical integrity of everyone, without any discrimination. They have to exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate, punish and provide redress for racially motivated crimes by private individuals or groups. Amnesty International is monitoring the situation and urges the Bulgarian authorities to put in place all the necessary measures to stop racially-motivated attacks against Roma and to duly investigate the racial motivation in attacks against Roma neighbourhoods and individuals. Allegations that law enforcement officers made no attempt to prevent the violence on 24 September should also be subject to a full and effective investigation, with the results made public and anyone found responsible brought to justice.

Following the killing of an ethnic Bulgarian youth, Angel Petrov, who was hit by a minibus driven by an ethnic Roma, Simeon Iosifov, on 23 September, protests sparked off in Katunitza (Plovdiv district). The driver was arrested the following day and an investigation is currently underway.

On 24 September further protests with a more prominent anti-Roma character were staged; three houses belonging to a Roma local leader, Kiril Rashkov, were set alight. Football fan club members from Plovdiv joined the protests, slogans inciting hatred and violence against Roma and Turks were shouted. Law enforcement forces reportedly did not stop the protesters from entering the village of Katunitza, nor were the arson attacks on properties prevented. However, no one was injured on that day and the families living in the properties attacked were evacuated by law enforcement forces.

On 25, 26 and 27 September rallies were organised in other cities by local groups, football fan clubs and Neo-Nazi groups, supported by far-right and nationalist parties such as ATAKA and VMRO. Roma neighbourhoods and Roma citizens were threatened or actually violently attacked. Figures on the overall number of injured are not available. However, Roma are reportedly afraid to leave their homes in some areas due to panic about the widespread insecurity. Around 400 people were arrested for taking part into the attacks. Some of them have been already fined for hooliganism.




Statement by ERIO concerning the ethnic unrest against Roma in Bulgaria

Brussels, 30 September 2011

 The European Roma Information Office (ERIO) is deeply concerned about the heightened ethnic tension against Roma taking place in Bulgaria since 24 September. Particularly, regarding the failure of the Bulgarian government to take the necessary measures to protect victims of these inter-ethnic attacks lead by far-right individuals. ERIO calls on the Bulgarian government to take an urgent and strong position against right-wing extremism and incitement to hatred.

 The clashes started in the village of Katounitsa in the south of the country and quickly spread to other towns. Anti-Roma demonstrations with shouting anti-Roma slogans have been organised through Facebook. The aim of such demonstrations is to incite hatred against Roma. Such racist discourses are a powerful fuel of anti-Gypsyism. Incitement to ethnic hatred is a crime under the Bulgarian law. As such, ERIO calls for a strong implementation of criminal law against racist and ethnic offences.

 Despite the challenges to any attempts to regulate Internet content, online hate incitement has to be properly addressed by authorities. Internet has become a powerful tool to organise attacks and groups. These groups that embrace and promote racist anti-Roma ideologies and strategies constitute a direct violation of the fundamental rights of this minority.

 Bulgarian authorities need to improve their response to racially-motivated violence against Roma. ERIO urges the Bulgarian government to implement the Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia. Bulgaria, being a member of the EU, is required to adopt a strategy for Roma inclusion until the end of this year. Given the current incidents, how can the government guarantee safety for Roma communities?

 Ivan Ivanov, ERIO’s Executive Director, said: ‘This is an unacceptable situation that goes against EU values of human rights and respect. It is urgent that the government react and send the message that racist hate crimes are punished in Bulgaria. I hope this is an isolated case and that it will disappear after the elections. Bulgarian society is generally tolerant. However, this image has been changing since nationalist parties have gained more support in Bulgaria. It is very dangerous when politicians play the ethnic card as a strategy to gain votes. Against the backdrop of rising right-wing extremist parties across Europe, it is imperative to guarantee equality and respect for human rights to all in Bulgaria.’

For more information, please contact
Ivan Ivanov, Executive Director
European Roma Information Office
Tel: +32 273 33 462

European Roma Information Office (ERIO) is an international advocacy organisation which promotes political and public discussion on Roma issues by providing factual and in-depth information on a range of policy issues to the European Union institutions, Roma civil organisations, governmental authorities and intergovernmental bodies.


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