UPR Bulgaria: problems persist in the areas of minority rights and mental health institutions
Thursday, 11 November 2010 18:41


On 4 November 2010 Bulgaria was reviewed under the universal periodic review (UPR). Led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Nickolay Mladenov, the State delegation touched on a number of human rights issues over the course of the review, seeking to emphasise progress that had been made. The delegation drew particular attention to the situation of the Roma minority in Bulgaria, highlighting the State’s efforts to fully integrate this ethnic group, for example through social projects in the area of housing, improvements in healthcare, and effective integration into the State’s education system. The State representatives also discussed at length fresh measures intended to improve the rights and protection of children in Bulgaria. These included a new 15-year action plan on the rights of children including a reduction in the number of children attending specialised health institutions for the mentally ill or disabled, or State orphanages.  The elimination of torture also appeared on the agenda, with Bulgarian officials insisting that this practice is illegal under any circumstances, adding that 34 police officials had been taken to court in recent years charged with the ill-treatment of detainees. These policies, it was claimed, had led to a 70 percent reduction in complaints of ill-treatment since 2005.


Bulgaria received considerable praise from States for a number of policy developments. An attempt to address gender inequality through the creation of an independent national body for women’s rights is one specific example.[1] States also acknowledged improvements that had been made in the situation of Roma in Bulgaria.[2] Nevertheless, concerns surrounding minority rights persisted. Finland raised failures in attempts to integrate Roma into the education system, pointing out that three quarters of all school dropouts were ethnic Roma and that an alarming portion of Roma children continued to be educated in institutions for the mentally ill or disabled.[3] The Bulgarian delegation rejected any suggestions of discrimination in school placement, but acknowledged that teaching standards had fallen in many of the schools where a large portion of the student population was Roma. Representatives insisted that Bulgaria would take measures to reverse this trend.  Romas did not represent the only minority whose equal rights were called into question. Turkish delegates claimed that there remained persistent discrimination against Turkey’s own national minority in Bulgaria, a claim that was flatly rejected by Bulgaria which considered it inappropriate on grounds that Turkey was overly aggressive in its intervention. It also came to light that any parties formed with the sole purpose of representing particular ethnic groups in Bulgaria were barred from registering under the constitution.


The state of institutions for the mentally ill and disabled also provided cause for concern for States. Many recommendations were made on this front, ranging from closing the most poorly-run health institutions and reducing the number of individuals held in such facilities, to providing additional training for workers employed in this field.[4] Many of these recommendations also applied to criminal detention facilities.[5] There were also concerns related to the lack of full enjoyment of  the rights of children in Bulgaria. Exploitation, sometimes sexual, remained common, as did domestic violence against children. Additionally, some States criticised Bulgaria’s juvenile detention system, saying alternative measures to imprisonment should be explored.[6] Other issues raised by States included human trafficking and police corruption.[7]


Addressing concerns of States, Bulgaria offered assurances that it was taking significant steps to improve the situation of children in the State, such as increasing the number of special care benefits offered to children. Delegates also acknowledged deficiencies within the current prison system, stating that a new action plan was being put in place to fight the phenomenon of over-population and the compromise of detainees’ human rights that this trend brought with it. Overall the review of Bulgaria was a fruitful session, as noted by all parties involved. 113 recommendations were made in total, recommendations which Bulgaria took no position on at the Working Group, but promised it would analyse and offer responses to before the sixteenth session of the Human Rights Council, scheduled for March 2011.

[1] Algeria, China, Hungary, Morocco, Palestine and Russia all singled this policy area out.

[2] Armenia, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Cyprus, Denmark, Ghana, Iraq, Italy, Malaysia, Moldova, Nigeria, Serbia, UK.

[3] Canada, Finland, Spain, Sweden, UK.

[4] These suggestions were raised by the delegations of Austria, Belgium, Norway, Slovenia, and the United States of America.

[5] A point addressed by Sweden and US.

[6] Austria, Belarus, Brazil, Chile, Hungary, Indonesia, Mexico, Slovenia.

[7] On human trafficking: Belgium, Cyprus, Serbia, Switzerland, Ukraine. On police corruption: Canada, Netherlands, Switzerland.


Last Updated on Thursday, 11 November 2010 18:44
© by The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) 2018