Human Rights in Bulgaria in 2019 (summary)

    Adela Katchaunova, Antoaneta Nenkova, Bosilena Melteva, Diana Dragieva, Dilyana Angelova, Iliana Savova, Iveta Savova, Krassimir Kanev, Nadezhda Tzekulova, Radoslav Stoyanov, Rilka Gergichanova, Slavka Kukova, Stanimir Petrov and Yana Buhrer-Tavanier.

This is an English language summary of the BHC's annual report on the situation of human rights in Bulgaria.

2019 was a year of stagnation and in some respects of regress in human rights. The most serious regress took place in the areas of freedom of association and discrimination of ethnic minorities and particularly the Roma. Pro-European NGOs, including the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC), came under unprecedented pressure from sources close to the government. For the first time since its establishment, the ruling party petitioned the law enforcement agencies to terminate the activities of the BHC. Other NGOs were also subjected to attempts to ban or restrict their activities; others were demonized and stigmatized. The prosecutor's office filed a lawsuit against a registered minority organization for termination at the behest of a ruling party.

A new Prosecutor General was elected in 2019. The election took place in the context of restrictive legislation that severely limits the circle of persons who are eligible to nominate candidates for the post. In practice, there was no choice, as there was only one candidate for the position — the former Deputy Prosecutor General and head of the Specialized Prosecutor's Office, Ivan Geshev. His name was put forward by prosecutors close to the ruling party, in which former Prosecutor General Tsatsarov took the most active part. The Supreme Judicial Council, which is dominated by the ruling party, ultimately elected him by the required majority in spite of months of civil protests. The protesters were repeatedly described by the candidate and by the pro-governmental propaganda media that supported him as expressing the interests of oligarchic circles that are subject to investigations by the prosecutor’s office.