NGO Threatens to Sue Bulgaria over Forced Demolition of Homes in Roma District of Garmen
The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) has opposed the forced demolition of buildings and homes in the Roma neighborhood of the southwestern Bulgarian village of Garmen.
The human rights NGO cautions that the step leaves four families with nowhere to go, forcing them to sleep out in the open.
The BHC insists in a media statement that the step contradicts international law and will trigger an even bigger and more urgent problem.
The NGO emphasizes that the demolition of the four illegal buildings two days ago was made under public pressure as a form of collective punishment for the supposedly illegal actions of different individuals in Garmen and without taking into account the situation of each of the people living there who are not involved in past incidents.
In their words, the campaign was accompanied by a public racist anti-Roma rhetoric, which was incited, among other things, by media outlets and by the political parties represented in Parliament.
The NGO draws attention to the fact that it warned about similar developments in May.
The BHC reminds that it has repeatedly warned that the demolition of the only homes of poor families, who have been living there for a long time, without providing them with an alternative housing option, breaches the right to respect for their private and family life and the right to a home.
The BHC reminds that the forced evictions of people from their only homes has been condemned as a breach of international law on three occasions in lawsuits related to cases similar to the existing one.
The NGO reminds that Bulgaria lost these lawsuits, with three different international bodies coming up with convictions against Bulgaria, including the European Court of Human Rights, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, and the European Committee of Social Rights.
These three international bodies detected violations of three international treaties to which Bulgaria was a party, according to the BHC.
The NGO also stresses that in these cases the measures selectively targeted the Roma population, despite the fact that illegal construction in Bulgaria did not boil down to the homes of the Roma population.
The BHC accuses Bulgarian public authorities of committing outright racial discrimination, adding that it is prohibited by Bulgaria’s Constitution and international law.
The human rights NGO emphasizes that the unlawful activities of both the central and the local authorities in Garmen created preconditions for an escalation of ethnic tensions and a deterioration of the social problem, and tarnished Bulgaria’s international reputation.
BHC calls for an urgent halt of the forced evictions of poor people from their only homes, as well as all other populist measures initiated by the authorities.
The NGO also seeks urgent measures related to providing housing for the homeless.
The BHC says that it will consider the opportunities for initiating legal action over the breaches of international law in the “Garmen” case.
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