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Press briefing note on Bulgaria

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva
Subject: Bulgaria

We are deeply concerned about the anti-Roma demonstrations that have been occurring in Bulgaria since 23 September, when an ethnic Bulgarian youth was run over and killed by a van reportedly belonging to a local Roma. The protests continued into this past weekend, spreading to some 14 towns across the country.

We regret the death of the young man in the village of Katunitsa. We hope that if the driver of the van is culpable, he will be brought to justice in accordance with the law, and that through such a judicial process, the facts surrounding the young man’s death will be clearly established.

The hate speech that has been fuelling the anti-Roma protests in Bulgaria is of great concern. It is unacceptable for an entire community to be targeted for an offence allegedly committed by an individual. We call on Bulgarian authorities at the highest political level to publicly restate this principle of individual criminal responsibility. The political leadership must take a strong stance against hate speech and ensure that police officers continue to be deployed in sufficient numbers to protect Roma neighbourhoods from threats of retribution and harassment.

Recently, anti-Roma demonstrations have also taken place in Hungary and the Czech Republic. In all three countries, political parties with extreme nationalist views have reportedly seized the opportunity to stoke up anti-Roma prejudice. In such an atmosphere, inter-ethnic tensions rise, and Roma risk becoming scapegoats of broader dissatisfaction.

Such hostility adds to the challenges which millions of Roma in Europe face in realisation of their economic, social and cultural rights, including education, health and, particularly, employment. We encourage the EU and European States to adopt and implement socially inclusive policies to end the long-standing discrimination against Roma communities in Europe.

For more information or media requests, please contact spokesperson Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or press officers Ravina Shamdasani (+ 41 22 917 9310 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org) and Xabier Celaya (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org).

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