Strasbourg court: Bulgarian courts allow Volen Siderov's speech, which is extremely stigmatizing for Roma and Jews

On February 16 this year, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg ruled in the cases of Behar and Gutman v. Bulgaria (application № 29335/13) and Budinova and Chaprazov v. Bulgaria (application № 12567/13), concerning systematic anti-Semitic and anti-Roma speech of Volen Siderov before and soon after his election as Member of Parliament in 2006

The court's ruling comes after the Supreme Court of Cassation upheld the refusals of the Sofia District Court and the Sofia City Court in August 2012 to convict Siderov of discriminatory speech under the Protection against Discrimination Act in August 2012.

In both cases, the ECtHR found that the Bulgarian courts had not ensured the right balance between Volen Siderov's freedom of expression and the applicants' right not to be discriminated against. Moreover, the Court emphasizes the obligations of national authorities to combat racial discrimination, which includes discrimination on ethnic grounds.

The court found that national courts had downplayed Siderov's statements to stigmatize Jews and Roma in Bulgaria, and instead identified the statements as a legitimate debate on issues of public importance.



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