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The Council of Europe Is Also Dissatisfied with Bulgaria


While we were staring at the European Parliament, waiting for the debates of MEPs on the situation in Bulgaria, another European organization – the Council of Europe (CE) slapped us in the face.


Or, more precisely, we were slapped twice because the CE Committee of Ministers adopted two interim resolutions and pointed out that Bulgaria was not complying with key decisions of the Strasbourg court, thus violating its international obligations. In non-diplomatic language it means shame, a great shame for our country…

There are not many people in Bulgaria, including among politicians who distinguish between the European Union and the Council of Europe. It is therefore necessary to clarify that the Council of Europe consists of 47 member-states and that this is an international organization other than the EU.

All 47 countries have signed the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and have undertaken not only to comply with it, but also to comply with the judgments of the Strasbourg court. Against the "rascals" who do not, the Convention provides for measures to be taken by the Committee of Ministers, in which the foreign ministers of the member states of the CE meet.

So it was this Committee of Ministers, which adopted on October 1


two resolutions against Bulgaria,


because our country did not abide with the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (ECtHR) after it was convicted of violations.

These are interim resolutions by which the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe signals of a long-term failure to comply with a decision of the ECtHR indicating to the states what they need to do within the time limit set by the Committee.

The first resolution relates to a group of seven cases brought before the Strasbourg court between 1998 and 2013 and mainly regards police violence and abuse of prisoners. They also contain complaints of a lack of adequate medical care, restriction or deprivation of legal protection, ineffective investigation of complaints of police arbitrariness, impossibility


to appeal against the refusals of the Public Prosecutor's Office


to file cases on such appeals.

The police violence in our country has become an especially relevant issue now, during the protests. In general, however, it is a systemic problem that has existed for three decades. Reference - the annual reports of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, which show that only 2-3 percent of the complaints of police violence "develop" in pre-trial proceedings. And there are no convicted or imprisoned punchers in uniforms.

Against this background, the finding of the Committee of Ministers that our authorities have not taken adequate measures for 20 years despite the convictions against BG, cannot be passed quietly.

The other group of cases for which the CE Committee of Ministers frowned at us is related to the


violation of the right to free association.


Bulgaria was convicted in Strasbourg because of the refusal of the courts to register the “Ilinden” Macedonian Organization.

Both resolutions give a time limit within which Bulgaria must take specific measures, including changing its legislation to comply with the Convention on Human Rights and, if necessary, repairing even the constitution.

As for the deadlines - by June next year, Bulgaria will have to report its progress with regard to the judicial registration of associations such as the “Ilinden” MO and by the end of 2021 - when cases will be revisited by the Committee of Ministers – the solution to the problems of police violence.

For now, the Council of Europe is only brandishing at us.  This is not a precedent because Bulgaria has previously received such resolutions. It seems that it will not be the last one, because


our country is a systemic violator


of the European Convention on Human Rights, the ratification of which has obliged us to implement the judgments of the Court of Justice in Strasbourg (ECtHR).

In the report of the Committee of Ministers for 2019, Bulgaria was placed in fourth place (after Russia, Turkey and Ukraine) - with 79 unfulfilled convictions of the ECtHR, which identified the so-called "systemic problems". In total, however, there are 170 non-executed judgments of the Strasbourg Court in our account.

Undoubtedly the most famous of them is of the case


"Kolevi  vs Bulgaria",


which was filed by the relatives of the military prosecutor Nikolay Kolev, who was shot in 2002. It is in this case that the European Court of Human Rights, in black and white terms wrote that our Attorney General should not remain untouchable if there was sufficient evidence of a committed crime. Eleven years later, however, this decision remains with no consequences.

The lame bill amending the Criminal Procedure Code, tabled by former Justice Minister Danail Kirilov and claiming to resolve the issue of the chief prosecutor's inviolability, "does not guarantee the independence of investigators," CE experts say. Similar is their assessment of GERB's "new" constitution, which - thankfully for the mortals - is headed for the ditch in its infancy.

The next review of the "Kolevi vs. Bulgaria" case will be in March next year.  It seems that the hot potato will be transferred to the next rulers and the Lord only will remain above the chief prosecutor (in the words of the late Ivan Tatarchev)…

How the Council of Europe will react if we continue to be among the countries that hold the record for devil-may-care attitude towards the rulings of the Strasbourg Court cannot be predicted.

What is the bad news is that


persistent non-compliance with an international treaty,


such as the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights, is gaining a negative image of Bulgaria in front of the world. That is why we are referred to as a country that does not sufficiently guarantee the protection of human rights on its own territory. A fact that is unacceptable for a Member State of the European Union.

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