Bulgaria: Action, not just words, needed to tackle anti-gay hate crimes

Published: June 28, 2012

An urgent overhaul of Bulgarian laws is needed to ensure that hate crimes which all too frequently target gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are properly investigated and prosecuted, Amnesty International recommends in a briefing published today.

“Dozens of LGBT people have been beaten, raped, and in one case murdered because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Most of these crimes have not been properly investigated and have gone unpunished,” said Emily Gray, Amnesty International’s expert on sexual orientation and gender identity.  

“The Bulgarian authorities are not only failing in their duty to unmask the homophobic or transphobic motive on which these crimes are perpetrated, but they are failing to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Amnesty International’s briefing, Changing laws, changing minds: Challenging homophobic and transphobic hate crimes in Bulgaria, focuses on the failure of the police and prosecutors to address effectively crimes against LGBT people on the basis of widespread and deeply entrenched discriminatory attitudes towards them.

 “Due to the absence of hate crimes legislation on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, motives are rarely sought or uncovered. It is important to unearth the motives if the police are to develop effective strategies to reduce and prevent these crimes,” Emily Gray said.

Mihail Stoyanov, a 25-year-old medical student was beaten to death in one of Sofia’s parks on 30 September 2008. Two young men were arrested as suspects in 2010. They were charged with “homicide with hooligan motive” and placed under house arrest for two years and then released as the Prosecutor did not issue an indictment during that period.

Ivelina, Kaloyan, Mitko, Kristina and Svetlio were attacked by a group of young men after last year’s Pride march in Sofia.

Three of them were punched and kicked to the ground. When the five reported the attack, the police first asked them whether they had provoked it.

A year on, the police has yet to identify the perpetrators and say the case is not a priority for them. “I want to see this case resolved. It is important because the message will be that the authorities care and they can solve these issues,” Ivelina told Amnesty International.  

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