According to statistics from the European Court of Human Rights Bulgaria holds second place in losing cases based on complaints of violations of Art. 9 of the European Convention. Art. 9 protects freedom of religion and conscience. With an 83% rate of cases lost, Bulgaria ranks behind Turkey and Russia. The conclusion can only be that the state and its officials have no intention of learning and beginning to respect one of the most basic human rights, the one that sustains democracy -- freedom of religion and conscience.

Immediately after the success of GERB (Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria) and BSP (Bulgarian Socialist Party, former communists) in the early elections, held at the end of March, there was yet another attack by Bulgarians authorities against the fundamental rights and freedoms of believers. The tenacity with which Bulgarian rulers want to eliminate the free functioning of basic human rights in the country is remarkable.

Exactly one year ago we had the ill-fated bills by Kadiev and BSP amending the Law on Religious Confession (LRC), which had the intent to practically eradicate freedom of religion in Bulgaria. About two weeks ago we had a new prosed bill that could have been a copy-pasted version of the bills of 2016! On April 3, 2017, the Ministry of Justice (MJ) published on its website a Draft Law on the Law on Bulgarian Citizenship (formerly downloadable from the website of the Ministry of Justice here, in Bulgarian).

This time, however, to avoid the charge of the political and ideological motivation of the project, the proposed draconian restriction of basic human rights in the sphere of faith, expression, association, and assembly came from the Ministry of Justice rather than a socialist or another political faction. It later became clear that the bill was proposed by the newly elected president of the republic of Bulgaria – Rumen Radev (Fall of 2016). The Bulgarian president is a rather ceremonial position, as the country follows the parliamentary republic model of government. Thus, the president has no legislative initiative under the constitution. However, Mr. Radev had no reservations about circumventing his lack of powers and putting the Ministry of Justice as a front for his project. It comes as no surprise that Mr. Radev, and independent presidential candidate during the campaign was endorsed and supported by the Bulgarian Socialist Party.

The draft for amendments of the LRC was covertly introduced as a part of a Draft Law for Amends on the Law on Bulgarian Citizenship. The public outcry came after the draft law was published on the MJ website. However, the negative reaction came from the Bulgarian voters who live abroad that to whom the bill effectively denies the right to vote. The media picked up the scandal and the bill was hastily pulled from the internet. A mid-level government lawyer was fired for posting the draft law on the web. He spoke to the media and told in detail how the president of Bulgaria had a meeting with MJ officials and insisted that the law would be introduced without delay.

In an article the Wall Street Journal[1] claims that President Radev was the choice of Mr. Vladimir Putin for a Bulgarian president. Radev’s campaign for the presidency was supported by Kornelia Ninova, the chairwoman of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, formerly the communist party. She had met with a former KGB officer to discuss Radev’s candidacy for the position of president, states the WSJ article. When exposed to Bulgarian media she first lied about meeting the Russian negotiator, then when she was faced with the facts, stated that nothing important had been discussed at the meeting. Radev was elected president soon after these events which unfolded in the summer of 2016.

Then we have an attempt of the new president to legislate by introducing a draft law which almost verbatim repeated the anti-religious bills of 2016. One may even argue that under Art. 103 of the Bulgarian Constitution Radev has violated his constitutional duties by acting as a legislative agent.

Posted May 6, 2016

Robert ClarkeAlliance Defending Freedom's Robert E. Clarke serves as legal counsel and director of European advocacy for ADF International at its office in Vienna, Austria. Mr. Clarke has recently posted an article addressing the precarious situation of freedom of religion and the threat to a free and democratic society in Bulgaria. Here is the opening of the piece:

The communist regimes of the twentieth century were renowned for the restrictions they placed on religious freedom. Many churches and religious believers were driven underground as the state tightened its grip on people’s fundamental freedoms. Recent developments in Bulgaria demonstrate that these days are not entirely behind us. Some members of Bulgaria’s Parliament have made moves to exert state control over people’s religious freedom once again. 

The full article can be read here:

Bulgaria dragged back to communist era

A post referring to the commentary and the Bulgaria predicament also appears in the Italian website ACI Prensa.

Posted by Viktor Kostov, PhD attorney at law
editor in chief of Freedom for All, a web site for the freedoms of religion, conscience and speech

April 25, 2018

This post contains informational links to documents in English, Bulgarian and German related to our initiatives and media participations in regards to voicing opposition to the totalitarian, anticonstitutional and anti- human rights bills introduced by G. Kadiev, MPformerly of BSP and by BSP (Bulgarian Socialist Party "Left-wing Bulgaria).

Here are links to the texts of the actual bills, and our critical opinion, in English.

Critical notes to the first of the offending draft laws. (We are currently working on the translation of the second bill which is of the same nature. Keep in mind, however, that the bills are almost identical, being introduced to Mr. Kadiev’s bill will largely give one an idea of the Bulgarian Socialist Party bill, submitted to the Bulgarian Parliament two weeks later). 

The text of the first bill, by former socialist MP, G. Kadiev, translated in English (contains a link to the original bill, posted on Bulgarian Parliament's web site).

The text of the second bill, by the MPs from the Bulgarian Socialist Party, translated in English.

Please find below the text of the letter with which we submitted the packet of documents in protest against the latest legislative initiative of the Bulgarian Socialists, namely draft laws Bulgarian Law on Religious Confessions (Proposal No. 654-01-26 on 1 March, 2016 and Proposals No. 654-01-32 on 14 March 2016) at three European bodies on April 11.

The Declaration was submitted to Bulgarian parliament on April 1. 

Many thanks to all the kind people and Christian brothers and sisters from within Bulgaria and abroad who supported this initiative. Over 2100 support pledges were entered into the institutions with additional 800 which came in late.

Please, read further to see additional information and links including the translation of the offensive bill and our letter to the Venice Commission and two other European bodies.