Bulgarian Helsinki Committee: ANNUAL REPORT 2008

Human Rights in Bulgaria in 2007

June 6, 2008

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Bulgarian Helsinki Committee 7. Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly

As in previous years, the right to peaceful assembly of the Macedoniansin Bulgaria was restricted in contradiction to international law. On April 22, UMO (United Macedonian Organisation) Ilinden activists were restricted when trying to commemorate the anniversary of Yane Sandanski's death at the Rozhen Monastery. Although the mayor did not ban the rally, the Blagoevgrad regional governor, Vladimir Dimitrov, did. The activists were allowed to participate only as individuals, not as an organisation. As a result they were stopped and searched by the police and some of them were even issued citations. The celebration was marked by strong police and gendarmerie presence.

On several occasions during the year unpopular groups were unable to obtain registration as legal entities, which was a violation of their members' right of association. Despite the October 2005 judgement of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, the UMO Ilinden - PIRIN political party (PIRIN is the Bulgarian acronym for "Party for Economic Development and Integration of the Population"), supported by the Macedonians in Bulgaria, was denied registration three times in 2007. The Supreme Court of Cassation dismissed in February the party's complaint against a previous denial of registration. In August the party decided to try again, but on August 23 the Sofia City Court denied registration. The decision was motivated by what the court thought were deficiencies in the submitted documents. In a clearly unmotivated statement, the court held that "it is unclear how 685 declarations signed by adult Bulgarian registered voters were obtained in less than 15 days, so as to have a constituent assembly on August 15, 2007." In another section of the decision, the court held that "the goals and the objectives of the party under review are of a wish fulcharacter" and are "rather goals of a non-profit association under the Non-Profit Legal Entities Act than of a political party under the Political Parties Act." On October 11, the Supreme Court of Cassation confirmed the SCC decision, thus opening to road before UMO Ilinden - PIRIN to a file new application before the Strasbourg Court.

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