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Declaring a Macedonian-based Party Unconstitutional, Bulgarian Constitutional Court Violates Basic Political Rights

March 1, 2000

Statement by the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia, and the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights

1 March 2000. - On 29 February 2000, the Constitutional Court in Bulgaria declared a Macedonian-based political party, OMO "Ilinden" - PIRIN, unconstitutional, in violation of the right to freedom of association and the right to freedom from discrimination. This decision could lead to an effective ban of the party, deprivation of its juridical person status, confiscation of its property and the impossibility to take part in elections.

The Constitutional Court was petitioned a year ago by a group of MPs, mainly from the Bulgarian Socialist Party (ex-communists) plus several non-communist nationalistic MPs. The petition asked the court to declare the party unconstitutional, alleging a threat to the national security of Bulgaria. Subsequently the cabinet and several government ministries supported the petition. OMO "Ilinden" - PIRIN was registered as a political party in 1999 and took part in the municipal elections in October 1999, when it elected five local officials. It was registered as an all-Bulgarian political party, as the Bulgarian constitution prohibits formation of political parties along ethnic and religious lines. Nevertheless it drew its support mainly from ethnic Macedonians (more than 10, 800 people according to the 1992 census).

The government of Bulgaria had never recognized Macedonian identity and undertook a variety of repressive measures to suppress its free expression both before and after the fall of communism. A number of human rights organizations, both in Bulgaria and abroad, expressed concerns that the motives of the Constitutional Court in the present case were that the party is a threat to the national security of Bulgaria because some of its members in the past had separatist statements. The party itself never made any separatist statement; it declared in the beginning that it would respect the constitutional and legal system of Bulgaria and carry out its political activities peacefully.

The decision of the Constitutional Court in fact revives communist- era theories that not only the actions but also the thoughts and the statements of political groups and leaders could be subject to scrutiny and repression. It is also discriminatory as there are a number of monarchist political parties in the Republic of Bulgaria that have expressly anti-constitutional views and yet operate freely and routinely take part in elections. As such, the decision violates a number of basic human rights principles.

For more information:

Krassimir Kanev, Chair, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee: +359-2-951 62 89
Meto Jovanovski, Chair, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of Macedonia: +389-91-206 244

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