Violence against Roma in Bulgaria

15 May 1998

Incidents of violence against Roma in Bulgaria have recently been reported to the ERRC. On January 12, the Bulgarian daily 24 Chasa published an article concerning an anonymous gunman who shot at Roma in the Druzhba area of the capital. Sofia police claimed that they could not discover who the gunman was, although it is supposed that the shots were fired from the opposite apartment block, which is inhabited mainly by ethnic Bulgarians.

On January 26, both Demokratsia and Dneven Trud reported the beating of a Rom in the village of Nikolaevo, Sliven district. An 18-year-old Romani man named Hristo Petrov from the Nadezhda neighbourhood in Sliven had allegedly attempted to steal livestock from a non-Rom, but the latter caught and beat him. The newspapers reported that the Rom had been hit in the head and on the back, was hospitalised and was said to be in critical condition.

On January 31, the Bulgarian daily Standart reported the killing of a 30-year-old Romani man from the village of Sinemorets, district Burgas. The news-paper quoted a well known Bulgarian actor who has a villa in Sinemorets, Mr Yosif Sarchadzhiev, as allegedly stating that the Romani man had been „odd, and used to drink and steal." His killer has not been found and local reaction following the crime included, according to the news-paper, „a party in the local inn" on the night following the killing.

The killing by police of another Romani man was reported by Dneven Trud on February 3. An 18-year-old Romani man named Tsvetan Kovachev, from the Hristo Botev neighbourhood in Sofia, was shot by police while attempting to escape from a house where he had been hiding with another Rom, Krastyo Karamfilov. Accord-ing to the report, both men were suspects in the killing of a taxi driver, and a nation-wide appeal for their arrest had been launched.

A 13-year-old witness to the incident, Ms S.D., a relative of the victim, reported that the police had fired several warning shots which the Roma ignored, and then she saw Mr Kovachev fall. He was taken to hospital where he died. The witness also stated that the police detained her, during which time officers threatened to shoot her if she did not tell them the whereabouts of a certain pistol. According to the Human Rights Project, one police officer also reportedly threw a hammer at her while she was in custody. She was not hurt. She was released after one hour without being charged with any crime. She did not file a complaint about the treatment to which she was subjected while in custody. According to Dneven Trud, Mr Karamfilov escaped.

Finally, on March 26, a group of non-Roma attacked the Romani inhabitants of the village of Hadzhi Dimitrovo in the Yambol district of Bulgaria, and forced one Rom to demolish his own house and promise he would leave the village. Villagers reportedly justified the attack with the claim that crime is a way-of-life for Roma. The attack was accompanied by a petition with 318 signatures demanding that Roma leave Hadzhi Dimitrovo. Human Rights Project will present a film about the conflict to the President of Bulgaria, Mr Peter Stoyanov, as well as to the Pariamentary Commission on Human Rights, and ask them to state publicly their positions regarding the interethnic conflict.

(24 Chasa, Demokratsia, Dneven Trud, Human Rights Project, Standart)

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