Romani youth shot and killed by police officers in Bulgaria

03 October 2000

Police brutality, especially abusive use of firearms, against Roma in Bulgaria continues, often resulting in severe injuries or even deaths of Roma. On July 5, 2000, according to reports from Romani Bah, a Sofia-based non-governmental organisation, police officers from the 3rd District Police Department of Sofia allegedly shot and killed Mr Traicho Lyubomirov, a nineteen-year-old Romani man from the Fakulteta neighborhood of Sofia. Mr Lyubomirov died of a bullet wound in the back of the head. According to witnesses, Mr Lyubomirov was detained by police at about 1:40 AM on July 5, while in the home of his relatives in Fakulteta. They told Romani Bah that Mr Lyubomirov had arrived at their house at about 1:00 AM on July 5. At about 1:40 AM, a police car stopped in front of the house and two police officers entered the house. They made Mr Lyubomirov put on a shirt and then they handcuffed him. They took him to their car and drove away. Mr Lyubomirov's mother told Romani Bah that at about 11:00 AM on the same day, two police officers in uniform came to her house and ordered her to bring her passport and to follow them. She was taken to the morgue and asked to identify her son. When she saw his body she fainted. When she recovered, she found herself in a police car on the way back to the Fakulteta neighbourhood.

According to the police, Mr Lyubomirov was shot accidentally. Police officers from the 3rd Police Department of Sofia reportedly had orders to arrest Mr Lyubomirov on suspicion of theft. According to the police version of events, Mr Lyubomirov attempted to run away, and when one of the police officers caught up with him, he resisted and tried to grab the officer's gun. There was a scuffle between the policeman and Mr Lyubomirov, and a shot was fired. The bullet struck Mr Lyubomirov in the back of the head and killed him. Immediately after the incident, the Sofia Military Prosecutor's Office reportedly opened an investigation into the case, but the status of the investigation was not known to the ERRC as of October 10.

In another case, on May 10, 2000, in Sliven, Atanas Djambazov, a fourteen-year-old Romani boy, was shot in the head and hand by a police officer. According to Human Rights Project, a Sofia-based non-governmental organisation, at around 8:30 PM on May 10, Atanas and two other Romani boys from Sliven allegedly entered the yard of a local wine factory to steal wooden pallets. When the boys saw a policeman approaching, they ran away. The police officer shot at Atanas as he was attempting to climb the factory fence. The use of firearms by police officers other than in self-defence or the defence of others contravenes UN regulations on the use of firearms. The bullet hit him in the left cheek, broke his jaw and several teeth, and exited through the right cheek. Atanas fell down from the fence, and when he attempted to get up and climb the fence again, the police officer fired a second shot, hitting him on the right hand. According to the allegations of Atanas, the police officer then left the scene of the shooting, leaving him without assistance. Atanas was taken to his family by the other two boys and later brought to a local hospital. The Military Prosecutor's Office of Sliven opened a criminal investigation into the case on May 11, 2000. The criminal investigation was conducted pursuant to Article 133 of the Bulgarian Penal Code (unintentional infliction of moderate bodily injury). In the course of the proceedings, the Military Prosecutor established that the collected evidence did not suggest criminal liability and consequently sought administrative liability pursuant to Article 78(a) of Bulgarian Penal Code. At a hearing held on August 17, 2000, the Military Court reviewed the decision of the Military Prosecutor and upheld it. Under Article 78(a), Atanas will not be compensated for the injuries he had sustained as a result of the shooting.

In an unrelated case, according to reports by Amnesty International, on April 29, 2000, Tsvetalin Perov, a sixteen-year-old Romani boy, suffered third degree burns to fifteen per cent of his body while in police detention in Vidin. Tsvetalin is epileptic and has learning difficulties. He had allegedly been ill-treated by police officers on several occasions previously. On this occasion, the police reportedly claimed that Tsvetalin set fire to himself. However, according to Amnesty International, there are inconsistencies in the police account and crucial material evidence has vanished. Tsvetalin alleges that a police officer beat him unconscious and that he regained consciousness due to the pain of being on fire. According to Amnesty International, the reported difficulty in extinguishing the fire and the severity of the burns make it probable that a fire accelerant such as lighter fuel was poured on Tsvetalin beforehand. The ERRC's 1997 Country Report Profession: Prisoner: Roma in Detention in Bulgaria documented numerous abuses of Roma in custody in Bulgaria. The full text of the report is available on the ERRC website at

(Amnesty International, Human Rights Project, Romani Bah)


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