Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
International Helsinki Federation 2002 Annual Report - Bulgaria

Human Rights in the OSCE Region: The Balkans, the Caucasus, Europe, Central Asia and North America - Report 2002 (events 2001)

Freedom of Expression and Media

The right to freedom of speech of Bulgarian citizens of Macedonian self-determination was violated on several occasions by criminal prosecutions for the distribution of printed materials. This included one specific case where the materials appealed to Macedonians in Bulgaria to identify themselves as Bulgarians in the 2001 census.

Peaceful Assembly

On 2 October, the European Court of Human Rights found a violation of Article 11 of the European Convention in the case of Stankov and UMO Ilinden v. Bulgaria. The attitude of the authorities towards the public manifestation of Macedonian identity during the year was however inconsistent. Although on 21 and 22 April two groups of Macedonian activists were allowed to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Yane Sandanski, during the second commemoration the gathering was provoked by the police and pro-governmental agents, and one of the participants was arrested.

As in previous years, the authorities forbade or hindered commemorative activities organized by Bulgarian Macedonians on several other occasions. On 2 February, the police obstructed UMO Ilinden - PIRIN members from laying flowers on the grave of Gotze Delchev. The uniformed and plain-clothes policemen claimed to have a decree from the Regional Prosecutor's Office. On 4 May, a commemoration on the anniversary of the death of Gotze Delchev organised by UMO Ilinden - PIRIN was banned by a decree from the Regional Prosecutor's Office in Blagoevgrad. On 29 July, UMO Ilinden activists were stopped on their way to the Samuilova Krepost locality, where they intended to commemorate the anniversary of the Ilinden uprising.