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The Commission for Protection against Discrimination has not fully exercised its powers on a signal for threats and insults submitted to it

The Commission for Protection against Discrimination has not fully exercised its powers on a signal for threats and insults submitted to it

The Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) annulled a decision by the Commission for Protection against Discrimination (CPD), by which it refused to exercise its powers on a filed complaint for homophobic threats and insults, expressed through Facebook on the occasion of the exhibition “Balkan Pride # Balkan Pride ”in Plovdiv in 2019. With its ruling, the court returned the file to the CPD and obliged it to continue working on the appeal made by the GLAS Foundation and the activist Radoslav Stoyanov.

The commission was contacted in April 2019 after two Facebook users posted in an open group on the social network calls for advice and help to prevent the exhibition from happening because it shows footage from gay prides and is organized by an LGBTI organization. The CPD terminated the proceedings, citing a letter from the Ministry of Interior, according to which the identities of the owners of the Facebook accounts could not be established. The Ministry of Interior reached this conclusion only on the basis of the fact that the homophobic remarks were made through Facebook, which is owned by a company outside Bulgaria and there was no way to obtain traffic data for the owners of the accounts. However, no real verification has been made in the file as to whether persons with such names live in the settlements indicated on the Facebook profiles. The termination was confirmed by the Sofia City Administrative Court. However, with its ruling, the SAC finds that the CPD has not exercised its powers to require the bodies of the Ministry of Interior to take specific actions, but has uncritically accepted their response. In recent years the number of cases in which the Ministry of the Interior has precisely identified persons, authors of posts on social networks, such as organizers of protests or persons who have filmed offenses by police officers, who are summoned in administrative proceedings without collecting traffic data from foreign companies, has increased.
The CPD is due to resume taking actions as a result of the file.

Meanwhile, on the occasion of May 17, International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) published its new study on the situation of homosexual, trans and intersex people in EU Member States, according to which more than half of people belonging to these groups in Bulgaria hide their identity from the people around them, nearly 30 percent felt discriminated against in the workplace, and nearly 40 percent said that they didn’t report the cases when they were victims of harassment or violence because of their identity to the police for fear that police officers will discriminate against them themselves.

“The GLAS Foundation has been working on the problems of LGBTI people in Bulgaria for years and a very common tool through which we talk about the problem is art and documentary,” said Simeon Vassilev, chairman of GLAS. “It was shocking for us to see calls for a photographic exhibition organized by us, in which there is nothing offensive or harmful to others, to be stopped, even if it means violence is included. Such things don’t happen on a daily basis to the heterosexual people. That is why we are working to end this injustice, “he said.

“On paper and in official positions, in Brussels, Strasbourg or New York, the Bulgarian authorities are the most concerned and respectful of human rights,” said LGBTI activist and human rights activist Radoslav Stoyanov. “However, this is the protection LGBTI people in Bulgaria receive in practice. Bulgarian institutions take every opportunity not to make efforts to protect some of the most vulnerable groups in Bulgaria. This must change and we’re happy that the court has seen and recognized the institutional formalism, “Stoyanov added.

The GLAS Foundation approves on the court’s decision and calls on the CPD to step up its efforts to identify the perpetrators of homophobic harassment.

You can read the full court decision here.

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