Antisemitism in Bulgaria: Nine complaints in 2019, one prosecution, no convictions

For a second year running, no one was convicted of antisemitic crimes in Bulgaria in 2019, though the year saw nine official complaints, according to a report released on September 10 by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA).

The FRA report, an overview of antisemitic incidents in the European Union from 2009 to 2019, said that in 2019, Bulgaria’s National Coordinator on Combating Antisemitism, Deputy Minister Georg Georgiev, and the Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria “Shalom” informed the Interior Ministry of nine antisemitic incidents, six of which were reported to the relevant prosecutor’s office.

In one case the prosecution filed charges under Article 162(1) of the Criminal Code concerning hate crime on the basis of ethnicity, the report said.

Citing figures from Bulgaria’s Ministry of Justice, the FRA report said that there had been seven convictions for antisemitic crimes in the country from 2009 to 2019.

There was one each in 2009, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017 and there were two in 2015.

The FRA report said that antisemitism can be expressed in the form of verbal and physical attacks, threats, harassment, discrimination and unequal treatment, property damage and graffiti or other forms of speech or text, including on the internet.

“Antisemitic incidents and hate crimes violate fundamental rights, especially the right to human dignity, the right to equality of treatment and the freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

The report pointed out that as already indicated in FRA’s 2019 overview of data on antisemitism, evidence collected by FRA consistently shows that few EU countires record antisemitic incidents in a way that allows them to collect adequate official data.

“This is true despite the serious negative consequences of antisemitism for Jewish populations in particular, as FRA’s second survey on antisemitism showed, and for society at large.

“The inadequate recording of hate crime incidents, including those of an antisemitic nature, coupled with victims’ hesitance to report incidents to the authorities, contributes to the gross under-reporting of the extent, nature and characteristics of the antisemitic incidents that occur in the EU,” the report said.

It also limits the ability of policymakers and other relevant stakeholders at national and international levels to take measures and implement courses of action to combat antisemitism effectively and decisively, and to assess the effectiveness of existing policies, FRA said.

“Incidents that are not reported are not investigated or prosecuted, allowing offenders to think that they can carry out such attacks with impunity.

“Victims who do not report their experiences to authorities may also not receive relevant information about available assistance.”

The data that do exist are generally not comparable, not least because they are collected using different methodologies and from different sources across EU member states.

Furthermore, although official data collection systems are generally based on police records and/or criminal justice data as well as on data collected by the national equality bodies, authorities do not always categorise incidents motivated by antisemitism under that heading, the report said.

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The Sofia Globe staff

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