International Helsinki Federation Periodic Report on Bulgaria

July 15, 2000

This is the sixth of the "IHF Periodic Reports from the OSCE Region" published by the IHF on a regular basis. It contains information on recent human rights issues in some of the participating states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) provided by the IHF Secretariat and its member committees and partner NGOs. The IHF intends no political statement in the selection of countries and issues described in this report. For more information on human rights violations in the OSCE region, please visit our web page at www.ihf-hr.org

BULGARIA:

MACEDONIAN-BASED PARTY DECLARED UNCONSTITUTIONAL

On 29 February, the Constitutional Court in Bulgaria declared a Macedonian-based political party (OMO "Ilinden" - PIRIN) unconstitutional. This decision is in violation of the right to freedom of association and the right to freedom from discrimination and could lead to an effective ban on the party, deprivation of its juridical person status, confiscation of its property and the impossibility to take part in elections.

The Constitutional Court was petitioned a year ago by a group of MPs, mainly from the Bulgarian Socialist Party (former communists) along with several non-communist nationalistic MPs. The petition asked the court to declare the party unconstitutional, alleging a threat to national security in Bulgaria. The cabinet and several government ministries subsequently supported the petition. OMO "Ilinden" - PIRIN was registered as a political party in 1999 and took part in the municipal elections in October 1999, when it elected five local officials. It was registered as an all-Bulgarian political party, as the Bulgarian Constitution prohibits the formation of political parties along ethnic and religious lines. Nevertheless, it drew its support mainly from ethnic Macedonians (more than 10,800 people according to the 1992 census).

The Bulgarian government has never recognized Macedonian identity and has undertaken a variety of repressive measures to suppress its free expression, both before and after the fall of communism. A number of human rights organizations, both in Bulgaria and abroad, have expressed concerns that the motive of the Constitutional Court in the present case was the fact that it regarded the party as a threat to the national security of Bulgaria because some of its members have made separatist statements in the past. The party itself has never made any separatist statements; it declared in the beginning that it would respect the constitutional and legal system of Bulgaria and carry out its political activities peacefully.

In fact, the decision of the Constitutional Court revives communist-era theories that not only the actions, but also the thoughts and the statements, of political groups and leaders could be subject to scrutiny and repression. It is also discriminatory as there are a number of monarchist political parties in the Republic of Bulgaria with expressly anti-constitutional views and yet which operate freely and routinely take part in elections. As such, the decision violates a number of basic human rights principles.

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Source: The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia, and the IHF.

For more information please contact:
Krassimir Kanev, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, phone +359-2-951 62 89;
Meto Jovanovski, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of Macedonia, phone +389-91-206 244;
or Aaron Rhodes, IHF, phone +43-1-408 8822 or +43-676-635 6612.


       
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