BHC Annual Report - Human Rights in Bulgaria in 2001

March, 2002

For a detailed report on the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria in 2001, please see the MHRMC's 2001 Annual Report:

9. Freedom of Association and of Peaceful Assembly

On 2 October 2001, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg announced its decision in the case of Stankov and UMO-Ilinden v. Bulgaria. The Court found a violation of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights in five cases in which the state violated the right of Bulgarian Macedonians to assemble. All of the cases were connected with the organization of commemorative activities at the grave of Yane Sandanski near Rozhen Monastery in April and at the Samuilova Fortress locality near Petrich on the anniversary of the Ilinden Uprising. The Court sentenced Bulgaria to pay compensation and to reimburse the plaintiffs for their legal expenses. With sharp words, the Court chastised the Bulgarian authorities for their prejudicial and repressive attitude towards Macedonians in Bulgaria.

Despite the decision, in 2001 the authorities showed contradictory behavior towards public displays of Macedonian identity and during peaceful assemblies of Bulgarian Macedonians. On 21 and 22 April two groups of Macedonian activists were allowed to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Yane Sandanski at Rozhen Monastery, although the second celebration faced the provocations of police and government agents. Angel Trenchev, a participant in the festivities, was arrested and threatened with a fine. Similarly, on 12 September in Blagoevgrad UMO-Ilinden activists were allowed access to the monument to Gotse Delchev, where they observed the anniversary of the murder of 400 Macedonians by Bulgarian government agents in 1924. However, the police were there taking photographs, which they later used to threaten the participants in the celebration.

In several other cases the authorities prohibited or hampered the organization of celebrations by Bulgarian Macedonians. On 2 February the police obstructed members of UMO-Ilinden - Pirin from placing flowers on the monument to Gotse Delchev in Blagoevgrad. Uniformed and plain-clothes police blocked the monument, claiming that they had an order to do so from the Blagoevgrad Regional Prosecutor's office. They threatened and provoked the activists. On 4 May UMO-Ilinden - PIRIN's [PIRIN stands for the Bulgarian abbreviation of 'Party for Ecominic Development and Integration of the Population'] observation of the anniversary of Gotse Delchev's death was prohibited by the Blagoevgrad Regional Prosecutor's office. The order cited the possibility that the celebration would disturb the peace. The police dispersed the activists, who had gathered at the monument for the celebration. On 29 July UMO-Ilinden activists were stopped on their way to the Samuilova Krepost, where they had planned to celebrate the anniversary of the Ilinden Uprising.

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