October 2, 2019
The members of the JUSTICIA European Rights Network strongly condemn the request of the Bulgarian National Movement (VMRO/ВМРО – Българско Национално Движение), one of the parties in the ruling coalition in Bulgaria, seeking the de-registration of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) as a non-profit organisation. The move is an extremely worrying attempt to silence civil society in Bulgaria, as the BHC is an invaluable resource and a champion of human rights, especially for the most vulnerable and marginalised groups in society.
According to its own press release from 30 September 2019, VMRO has requested BHC’s de-registration for no reason other than the fact that it has engaged in activities that could only be described as legitimate human rights advocacy. These include criticising the government for human rights violations before the European Court of Human Rights, and campaigning to ensure that a convicted prisoner’s rights are respected. The JUSTICIA members were also concerned to learn that the complaint includes an allegation that BHC’s work training judges and magistrates amounts to an interference with the impartiality of the judiciary.
In their letter to Prime Minister Borisov and Prosecutor General Tsatsarov, the JUSTICIA members:
- Call on VMRO to desist from its continued intimidation and harassment of BHC;
- Expect the Prosecutor General of Bulgaria to handle the complaint against BHC impartially and free from political interference, recognising the essential role of human rights defenders, and Bulgaria’s international human rights obligations; and
- Call on the Government of Bulgaria to ensure that human rights defenders are protected from harassment and intimidation, and to take steps to ensure that civil society organisations are able to operate freely.
JUSTICIA stands in solidarity with BHC, and strongly opposes the unjustified attacks on the organisation that further narrows the space for civil society in Bulgaria.
Members of the JUSTICIA European Rights Network are: Open Society Justice Initiative, Ludwig Boltzmann Institute, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Croatian Law Center, Civil Rights Defenders, Res Publica, Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Greek Helsinki Monitor, Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Czech League of Human Rights, Statewatch, Human Rights Centre, KISA, Antigone, Human Rights Monitoring Institute, Netherlands Helsinki Committee, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, APADOR, The Peace Institute, Rights International Spain.