Bulgaria’s former deputy PM accused of anti-Roma discrimination

The case arose after two men of Roma origin attacked a Bulgarian native from the village of Voyvodinovo in January 2019. The assailants were identified and subsequently convicted, but the consequences of what happened affected the entire Roma community in the village, said the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC), who helped conduct the case. [Shutterstock/Melinda Nagy]

Bulgaria’s Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) has found the leader of the nationalist party VMRO and former deputy prime minister Krassimir Karakachanov guilty of discrimination against Roma people.

The case arose after two men of Roma origin attacked a Bulgarian native from the village of Voyvodinovo in January 2019. The assailants were identified and subsequently convicted, but the consequences of what happened affected the entire Roma community in the village, said the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC), who helped conduct the case.

Karakachanov made statements to the media at the time referring to Roma people as “gypsies”, a racial slur, and saying that Bulgaria’s patience with the community “was running out.”

BHC commented that members of the Roma community, who had nothing to do with the crime, were subjected to public and mass threats, denigration and were eventually evicted from the village because their houses were illegal.

At first, the Commission for Protection against Discrimination (CPD) and then the court of first instance found nothing wrong with Karakachanov’s statement. At that time he was deputy prime minister and defence minister in Boyko Borissov’s government.

However, the Supreme Court highlighted the fact that the Deputy Prime Minister’s statement was widely quoted in the media. The court emphasised that he was not criticising the specific criminals who bore personal responsibility, but was speaking for the entire ethnic group. Now the Commission for Protection against Discrimination has to consider the issue again and may fine Karakachanov.

Last September the European Parliament, in a resolution, called on member states to take decisive measures to end anti-Roma sentiment in their societies. The European Commission was urged to develop a mechanism to monitor the work of individual countries on this issue. (Krassen Nikolov | EURACTIV.bg)

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