Bulgarian Roma denied legal remedy for human rights abuse
The Drom Foundation, a non-governmental organisation for the legal defense of Roma, based in Vidin, Bulgaria, has documented three cases of Roma who sustained bodily injury as a result of illegal use of firearms by civilians or police officers. As of September 15, 2000, none of the victims, all of whom were injured in 1998-1999, had been able to obtain remedy within the Bulgarian judicial system.
On May 2, 1998, Mr Tsvetan Kirilov, a 35-year-old Romani man, was shot and wounded in the leg by the guard of the Vidin factory Phenix Bdin, Ltd. According to Mr Kirilov, the incident took place when he passed by the factory on his horse cart and tried to pick up a piece of scrap metal lying outside the factory fence.
On May 19, 1998, the criminal investigation into the case was terminated by the District Prosecutor's Office of Vidin on the grounds that the wounding of Mr Kirilov had been accidental and the perpetrator could not be considered culpable. Two appeals of the decision filed respectively before the Vidin Regional Prosecutor's Office on October 28, 1999, and before the Sofia Appellate Prosecutor's Office on December 21, 1999, were turned down. On February 2, 2000, Mr Kirilov filed an appeal with the Supreme Prosecutor's Office of Cassation. On July 11, 2000, a resolution of the Supreme Prosecution of Cassation upheld the previous non-indictment decision.
On July 31, 1998, Mr Valko Borissov, a 32-year-old Romani man from Vidin, was shot and wounded in the hand by a police officer of the Vidin District Police Department. According to Mr Borissov's allegations, he had received orders from the Chief Sergeant on duty at the Vidin Dispatching Railway Station to remove his car from the area, where parking was not allowed. Mr Borissov tried to get permission from the police officer to leave the car for a short time, while he took his son to his grandfather's house, just across the railway. Mr Borissov then headed across the railway track and the police officer tried to stop him. When Mr Borissov did not stop, the police officer took out a gun. Mr Borissov became afraid and started to run. The police officer then shot him in the right hand.
On December 2, 1998, the Pleven Regional Military Prosecutor's Office refused to open a criminal investigation against the police officer based on Mr Borissov's complaint. Upon appeal before the Sofia Military Appellate Prosecutor's Office from February 16, 1999, criminal investigation was opened. On May 21, 1999, the criminal investigation was terminated with a non-indictment act. Upon appeal of this act before the Sofia Military Appellate Prosecutor's Office, the investigation was reopened. It was terminated for the last time on March 21, 2000, with a non-indictment act and further appeals before the Sofia Military Appellate Prosecutor's Office and the Sofia Military Appellate Court were turned down. As of October 9, the ERRC and the Sofia-based Bulgarian Helsinki Committee were planning further legal action.
On October 13, 1999, Mr Ilian Iliev, an 18-year-old Romani man, was shot and wounded in the head by a police officer from the Vidin District Police Department. Mr Iliev and his friends, aged 10-14, were approached by a police car at the dump site near Vinprom Vidin Plant, where they were collecting scrap metal. According to Mr Iliev, when a few police officers got out of the car, holding handguns, the boys became scared and ran away. Then, without warning, one of the police officers shot at Mr Iliev, wounding him in the head.
On December 8, 1999, the Pleven Regional Military Prosecutor's Office refused to open criminal investigations against the police officer who had injured Mr Iliev on the grounds that the use of firearms had been in accordance with an act of the Ministry of the Interior. Mr Iliev's appeal of this decision was later turned down by the Sofia Military Appellate Prosecutor's Office and the Supreme Prosecutor's Office of Cassation. According to the legal representatives of the victims, investigations had not been thorough, impartial and complete, as in all three cases impartial witnesses had not been interrogated. (Drom Foundation)