Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (I) v. Bulgaria

The case concerns the death of Aneta Yordanova and Nikolina Kutsarova in 2006 and 2007 respectively in the Home for Children and Youth with Intellectual Disabilities and without parental care in the village of Straja.

Aneta died in a hospital in the city of Targovishte in October 2006 after she has been transported there by the employees in the home. The autopsy found that a reason for her death was, among other things, peritonitis due to perforation of her stomach. Few days before her death her stomach has been operated and the medical team found in it 4 kilos of different non-nutritive objects like stones, footbeds, socks, garbage, etc. Prosecutor's Office did not establish any responsibility on behalf of the home's personnel. The initiated investigation looked only at the conduct of the hospital staff. It has not been established how did the items ended up swallowed by the child.

The fate of Nikolina is similar. In July 2007 as a resident of the same home, she has stopped eating and later has died in the Targovishte hospital a few months later. Her autopsy has found that she suffered from a septic shock and cachexia (severe body mass loss preventable with nutrition). Both conditions could be a result of neglect, poor nutrition, or poisoning after intake of toxic substances. Prosecutor's Office has not established a reason to prosecute and have discontinued the investigation.

According to the Prosecutor's Office, Nikolina was malnutritioned because of her intellectual disability, i.e. it is something natural.

Because children in such "homes" are lacking parental care – the state is their caregiver – the BHC attempted to litigate the case on behalf of the victims before national institutions and the ECtHR.

ECtHR has issued a decision declaring the application of the BHC inadmissible due to a lack of standing. In the decision, the Court summarizes the requirements for admissibility when a civil society organization claims standing to act on behalf of a deceased victim that did not give the organization such powers. These requirements are as follows:

  • the vulnerability of the victim that incapacitates her to act on her own;
  • the seriousness of the alleged violations;
  • lack of successors of the victim that could act on behalf of the victim;
  • contact of the civil society organization with the victim, intervention in the national procedures before victims' death, as well as standing at the national proceedings recognized by national authorities.

According to the Court, the first three of those are fulfilled in the case of Aneta and Nikolina but finds that the victims were not in contact with the organization before they died. This standard follows from the case of Centre for Legal Resources on behalf of Valentin Câmpeanu v. Romania from 2014 where the civil society organization has visited the victim once a few hours before he died. The court finds that this is from overwhelming importance to establish standing before it.

The BHC's campaign for protection of children in institutions

Защитата на институционализираните деца с увреждания е една от основните дейности на БХК. По искане на БХК през 2008 г. Върховната касационна прокуратура назначава проверки във всички „домове“ в страната. Установени са тежки дефицити в грижата за деца и младежи в проверените институции, редица телесни повреди и 75 смъртни случая за 8 години. Никоя прокуратура обаче не образува досъдебно производство във връзка с тези данни.

Затова през 2009 г. БХК завежда дело от свое име срещу прокуратурата по Закона за защита от дискриминация. То е прекратено, след като тогавашният Главен прокурор, Борис Велчев, се съгласява прокуратурата да извърши нови проверки във всички „домове“ заедно с БХК и да даде достъп на БХК до всички преписки, за да защитава правата на децата.

Образувани са 240 досъдебни производства, по които БХК следи и атакува прокурорските актове. Към момента, въпреки правните действия на БХК, продължаващи и до днес, почти всички те са прекратени. Не е внесено нито едно обвинение в съда. През 2013 г. след смяната на Главния прокурор, настоящият – Сотир Цацаров, прекратява достъпа на БХК до образуваните производства. По този начин е преградена възможността за контрол от страна на правозащитни юристи по дела с подобна обществена значимост, при които жертвите не могат да се защитават сами, и които нямат близки, които се интересуват от тях.