Terms and conditions of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee for providing free legal aid
Legal aid from the BHC's legal protection program is provided only in individual, selected cases of violations of basic human rights. Whether such aid will be provided is decided by the director of the Legal aid programme. Legal assistance consists of consultations and/or legal representation before the Bulgarian courts and other institutions, as well as before the European Court of Human Rights and other supranational bodies. Legal aid is provided in cases (1) that are a symptom of a systemic problem affecting many people, (2) are well-supported with evidence, and (3) are among the organization's strategic priorities.
The strategic priorities of the organization in which a case needs to fall in order to be assisted are the following:
- discrimination on the main grounds – sex/gender, disability, race/ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, political beliefs, religion/belief and age – against members of vulnerable communities: children, women, disadvantaged people, minorities deprived of their liberty;
- access to education for children with disabilities;
- legal status of people with mental disabilities (mental disorders and intellectual challenges);
- institutionalization of children and adults with mental disabilities and in places of deprivation of liberty;
- suppression of the identity of unwanted minorities on the grounds in item 1;
- legislative restriction of rights, discrimination and violence against foreigners;
- juvenile justice (lack of judicial control over acts and activities that affect children's rights);
- freedom of association and peaceful assembly;
- access to healthcare;
- exceptionally, we provide assistance in severe cases of: police violence; lack of access to legal protection; excessive length of criminal and civil proceedings; violation of freedom of expression; violation of economic, social and cultural rights, when their violation is due to discrimination on any of the grounds under item 1.
Cases that fall among the above criteria are taken over only after an assessment by the director of the BHC's legal programme, which depends – among other things – on the current workload of the organization's employees. Such cases will not be undertaken when the organization does not have sufficient human and other resources to provide timely and quality assistance to those affected.
A condition for the provision of assistance by the Legal programme is the applicant to provide their contacts which could be used for them to be contacted, if necessary. A change in the circumstances in which the aid was granted may lead to its termination.
For the provision of free legal aid, the applicants owe assistance to the employees and associates of the BHC by providing timely information, documents, as well as appearing before state and municipal authorities if necessary. Recipients of free legal aid owe respect to the employees and associates of the BHC, as well as to the rules and conditions for organizing the work in our office.
Requests for legal assistance are accepted only in writing at the postal address: 7 Varbitsa Str., 4th floor, 1504 Sofia or at the e-mail address bhc [at] bghelsinki.org, except in cases where the applicant is not possible to set out the case in writing. The request should contain a brief and informative description of the facts. Copies of more important, relevant documents may be attached. Only copies of documents are accepted. Lack of response within one month of the request by the BHC should be considered by the complainant as a tacit refusal to provide legal aid. The decision not to provide an opinion shall be taken after careful analysis of the facts and evidence set out in the request.