European Court Again Rules Against Bulgaria for Violating Rights of its Macedonian Citizens

Once again, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against Sofia, underscoring Bulgaria’s blatant disregard for the European Convention on Human Rights only a few days after it took over the EU’s rotating presidency.

The three cases (United Macedonian Organization Ilinden and Others v. Bulgaria (no.3) (no. 29496/16), Yordan Ivanov and Others v. Bulgaria (no. 70502/13), and Kiril Ivanov v. Bulgaria (no. 17599/07) concern a series of police harassments against Macedonians dating from 2006 to 2016; the Bulgarian government illegally banned Macedonians from registering their organizations and denied their right to hold peaceful rallies and demonstrations, in addition to other illegal actions. The ECHR ruled that Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association) and Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the European Convention of Human Rights had been violated; the applicants were awarded a total of 33,220 euros in compensation.

“While we welcome the ECHR judgment, we have seen the European political establishment tolerate this travesty for far too long,” said UMD President Metodija A. Koloski, adding: “We have seen five previous judgments of this type going back to 1990, all of which clearly condemned Bulgaria’s treatment of Macedonians. The court is operating within fixed set parameters, but the EU leadership is otherwise permitting this aggression against European citizens to continue. It is turning a blind eye to Bulgarian state policies of ethnic discrimination and cultural genocide in the Pirin region. We do not need any more legal victories; we need Bulgaria’s policy to be reversed permanently.”

In 2006, UMD worked together with Macedonian human rights organizations around the world to coordinate more than three million e-mails to EU Parliamentarians in protest of Bulgaria’s treatment of the Macedonian community in Pirin, prior to its admission as an EU member.

UMD Chairman Stojan Nikolov added: “As Zaev and Borissov struggle to make speeches about ‘good-neighborly relations’ in front of the TV cameras, Sofia continues to systematically eradicate the indigenous Macedonian culture in Pirin, the same way Athens is doing likewise in Aegean Macedonia, by denying its existence. Meanwhile, the halls of power in Brussels remain conspicuously silent.”

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