Anti-Romani Hate Speech by Bulgarian Trade Union Leader
16 December 2004
In an August 20, 2004 press release, the Sofia-based non-governmental organisation Human Rights Project (HRP) publicised explicitly anti-Romani statements made publicly by Mr Konstantin Trenchev, president of the Podkrepa Labour Confederation. According to the HRP, on August 10, 2004, Mr Trenchev called for the formation of a national guard composed of former military personnel to "protect the population against the raids of Roma", which have been "transformed into a real scourge on the rest of the population". He also called for a loosening of the Law for the Possession of Firearms so that citizens might protect themselves against Roma. The call was reportedly a reaction to an earlier clash between forest rangers and a group of Roma from Samokov, west central Bulgaria, who allegedly were caught cutting wood illegally.
In his statement, Mr Trenchev stated, "Gypsies systematically commit robberies in villages, engage in pickpocketing in cities, are engaged in prostitution and do not pay for the goods they consume", according to the HRP. Mr Trenchev also reportedly accused Roma of selling their children.
Romani and human rights organisations in Bulgaria have denounced the racist calls of Mr Trenchev, insisting that he apologise to the Bulgarian Romani community and resign his post as president of the Podkrepa Labour Confederation. They have also called on the Public Prosecutor to start a criminal investigation into the statements of Mr Trenchev for incitement to racial hatred. On September 8, 2004, the Sofia-based Romani Baht Foundation sent a complaint against Mr Trenchev, alleging violation of Article 162 of the Bulgarian Criminal Code, which prohibits incitement to racial hatred. On the same date, Romani Baht Foundation, with support from the ERRC, also filed a civil complaint against Mr Trenchev under the Law on Protection from Discrimination. The first hearing in the civil case took place on October 20, 2004. A second hearing was scheduled for November 24, 2004. As of October 2, there had been no response regarding the criminal complaint.
(HRP, Romani Baht Foundation)