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2-6 Human Rights Practices in Bulgaria


This article is from the Bulgaria FAQ, by Dragomir R. Radev radev@tune.cs.columbia.edu with numerous contributions by others.

2-6 Human Rights Practices in Bulgaria

(by U.S. Department of State), last updated: 07-Mar-1996
Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic ruled by a democratically elected
government. President Zhelyu Zhelev, former chairman of the Union of
Democratic Forces (UDF), was elected in 1992 to a 5-year term in the
country's first direct presidential elections. The Bulgarian Socialist
Party (BSP), heir to the Communist Party, and two nominal coalition
partners won an absolute majority in preterm elections in December 1994
and formed a government in January. The judiciary is independent but
continued to struggle with structural and staffing problems. Most
citizens have little confidence in their legal system.

Most security services are the responsibility of the Ministry of the
Interior, which controls the police, the National Security Service
(civilian intelligence), internal security troops, border guards, and
special forces. A number of persons known to be involved in repressive
activities during the Communist regime returned to senior-level
positions in the security services in 1995. Some members of the police
force committed serious human rights abuses.

The post-Communist economy remains heavily dependent on state
enterprises. Most people are employed in the industrial and service
sectors; key industries include food processing, chemical and oil
processing, metallurgy, and energy. Principal exports are agricultural
products, cigarettes and tobacco, chemicals, and metal products. The
transformation of the economy into a market-oriented system has been
retarded by continued political and social resistance. Privatization of
the large Communist-era state enterprises has been very slow and is the
main reason for Bulgaria's economic stagnation. The Government is now
developing a mass privatization program which, if successfully
implemented, would partially address this problem. The service and
consumer goods sectors in private hands continued to be the most
vibrant. Although all indicators point to a reviving economy this year,
the last several years' decline has affected the employment of people
>from ethnic minorities disproportionately. The annual per capita Gross
Domestic Product (GDP) of $1,300 provides a low standard of living.

The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, but
problems remained in some areas. Constitutional restrictions on
political parties formed on ethnic, racial, or religious lines
effectively limit participation. There were several reports that police
used unwarranted lethal force against suspects and minorities, and
security forces beat suspects and inmates. Human rights observers
charged that the security forces are not sufficiently accountable to
Parliament or to society and that the resultant climate of impunity is a
major obstacle to ending police abuses. Prison conditions are harsh,
and pretrial detention is often prolonged. Mistreatment

of ethnic minorities by the population at large is a serious problem,
and both the Government and private citizens continued to obstruct the
activities of some non-Eastern Orthodox religious groups.
Discrimination and violence against women and Roma are serious problems.


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