The New Bulgarian Religious Law: Restrictive and Discriminatory

In: European Yearbook of Minority Issues Online
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  • 1 Dr. Krassimir Kanev is a professor of sociology and human rights at the state universities of Plovdiv and Sofia and Director of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee.

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  • 1 Adopted on 20 December 2002, State Gazette, No.120, from 29 December 2002. 2 Incorporation is the process of obtaining juridical person (corporate) status. It is often confused and mixed with registration but these are two different things although in Eastern Europe incorporation usually goes hand in hand with registration. Registration, however, is possible without incorporation. 3 For a summary of the PACE opinion of 2001 see Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Human Rights in Bulgaria in 2001, Annual Report (March, 2002), available at http://www.bghelsinki.org/frames-reports.htm. 4 See e.g. ECommHR, Appl. No. 28626/95, Khristiansko Sdruzhenie 'Svideteli na Iehova'(Christian Association jehovah WitnessesJ v. Bulgaria, Report of the European Commission of Human Rights of 9 March 1998 (friendly settlement). For more on this and on the historical and political background of church-state rela- tions in Bulgaria after 1989 see Emil Cohen and Krassimir Kanev, 'Religious Freedom in Bulgaria, 36 (1-2) Journal ofEcumenical Studies (1999), 243-64. 5 According to the latest census results from March 2001, 82.6% of Bulgarians declared nominal adherence to the Eastern Orthodox Christianity, 12.2% to Islam, 0.6% to Catholicism and 0.5% to Protestantism. See results at http://www.nsi.bg/Census/Religion.htm.

  • 6 The MRF is the political party supported by the majority of the Bulgarian Turks, plus a number of Bulgar- ian-speaking Muslims and Roma Muslims. 7 Constitutional Court (KoHC'tttryuttoHeH 0>.1), Decision No. 5/11 June 1992 on Constitutional Case No.ll/ 1992. 8 ECtHR, Hasan and Cbausb v. Bulgaria, judgment of 26 October 2000.

  • 9 Ibid., para. 86. 10 Ibid., para. 78.

  • 11 Article 9 of the ECHR and Article 18 of the CCPR allow restrictions of the freedom to manifest one's religion only in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. As the UN Human Rights Committee stated in its General Comment 22 on Article 18 of the CCPR: 'The Committee observes that paragraph 3 of Article 18 is to be strictly interpreted: restrictions are not allowed on grounds not specified there, even if they would be allowed as restrictions to other rights protected in the Covenant, such as national security.' (UN Doc. HRI/GEN/1/Rev.l at 35,1994, para.8) 12 In fact, these are the grounds for restricting religious freedom provided for by Article 13(4) and Article 37(2) of the Bulgarian Constitution.

  • 13 The text of the petition is available in English at http://free.top.bg/confessions_actlenglishlenglish.htrn.

  • . Translation by Dr. Krassimir Kanev, professor of sociology and human rights at the state universities of Plovdiv and Sofia and Director of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee.

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