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Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance

& Other Ill Treatment

In the early years of the 21st Century, 2000 to 2025                                

Republic of Bulgaria

Police brutality, including occasional torture of suspects in custody, continued in 2017. Overcrowding and violence plague many of Bulgaria’s prisons. Organized crime is still a major issue, and scores of suspected contract killings since the 1990s remain unsolved.

[Freedom House Country Report, 2018]

Description: Description: Description: Bulgaria

CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Bulgaria.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Torture by Authorities are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring the moral justification for inflicting pain or inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment in order to obtain critical information that may save countless lives, or to elicit a confession for a criminal act, or to punish someone to teach him a lesson outside of the courtroom.  Perhaps your paper might focus on some of the methods of torture, like fear, extreme temperatures, starvation, thirst, sleep deprivation, suffocation, or immersion in freezing water.  On the other hand, you might choose to write about the people acting in an official capacity who perpetrate such cruelty.  There is a lot to the subject of Torture by Authorities.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.

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Surveillance Video Puts Bulgarian Police Brutality During Anti-Government Protests In Focus

RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty RFE/RL Bulgarian Service, 17 August 2021

[accessed 17 August 2021]

At first, the officers show relative restraint, with one using his baton to force the detainee to comply with their efforts to take him away. But once behind one of the large columns propping up the Council of Ministers building, the blows rain down, with multiple officers kicking, slapping, punching, and striking their victim into submission.

Relief comes only when some of the officers break off to deliver multiple strikes to the head and body of a new arrival dragged behind the columns by another group of police. Within moments, another demonstrator is brought to the spot, and then another -- a young woman in a headlock who is violently slammed down next to the growing pile of detainees.

Resistance is futile, and even those whose hands are already cuffed behind their backs are not spared more punishment, as becomes clear when one protester who tried to roll away is tossed like a sack of potatoes on top of detainees lying facedown and defenseless on the pavement. Once that man is forcibly put into place, another cuffed protester is thrown on top of him.

Council of Europe anti-torture Committee urges Bulgaria to stop physical ill-treatment of psychiatric patients and social care residents and to immediately cease the shameful practice of using chains as a means of restraint

European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment CPT, 2 December 2020

[Long URL]

[accessed 2 December 2020]

In a report on Bulgaria published today, the Council of Europe's anti-torture Committee (CPT) notes with grave concern that the Bulgarian authorities have failed to take effective action to improve the situation in psychiatric hospitals and social care institutions in the light of the Committee's recommendations following its previous visits.

In the report, the CPT concludes that patients in Bulgarian psychiatric hospitals continue to be physically ill-treated by staff (slapped, pushed, punched, kicked, and hit with sticks) despite the Committee’s recommendation, following its 2017 visit, that the Bulgarian authorities take steps to prevent the ill-treatment of patients by staff and to remove any non-standard issue objects capable of being used for inflicting ill-treatment from the premises of all psychiatric hospitals.

The Committee notes that staff numbers in the psychiatric hospitals continue to be grossly insufficient to adequately provide anything close to the necessary range of modern psychiatric treatments for patients nor to ensure patients’ safety within the often highly austere wards.

Council of Europe anti-torture Committee publishes report on Bulgaria

Executive Summary, 11 July 2019

[accessed 1 June 2020]

As regards material conditions, some improvements were observed by the delegation at Busmantsi and  Lyubimets  Homes  since  the  CPT’s  previous  visits,  also  thanks  to  the  fact   that   both establishments  were  operating  well  below  their  official  capacities.  However,  the  accommodation continued  to  be  dilapidated  and  the  virtually  bare  large-capacity  dormitories  offered  no  privacy. Further, communal toilets for men were still run down and dirty in Lyubimets. In both Homes, the lack of access to a toilet at night for most of the detainees obliged them to use bottles or buckets, or to  comply  with  their  needs  of  nature  through  the  windows.  The  accommodation  areas  were inadequately  heated  (especially  in  Busmantsi)  and,  in  both  Homes,  detained  foreign  nationals complained  of  not  being  provided  with  clothing  and  shoes  adapted  to  the  season.  Furthermore,  as previously, many complaints were heard about the food (especially its quality) and about the ban on detainees cooking their own meals. The CPT recommended that urgent steps be taken to remedy the above-mentioned deficiencies.

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Bulgaria

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 6 July 2021]


The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but there were reports of government officials employing violent and degrading treatment.

According to the NGO Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC), police brutality in prison and detention facilities occurred with impunity. The BHC cited prosecutorial statistics obtained through a court order indicating that in 2019 the prosecution tracked 78 open cases of police violence, closed 67 cases, and carried out 13 investigations that resulted in no prosecutions, no indictments, and no convictions. According to the BHC, physical abuse of detainees by police was widespread and disproportionately affected Romani suspects. Most cases were not included in statistics, since victims often did not report it because most considered reporting abuse to be pointless.


Physical Conditions: In February the ombudsman recommended the closing of two low-security facilities, Keramichna Fabrika in Vratsa and Kremikovtsi near Sofia, as well as the Central Sofia Prison due to “extremely bad physical conditions, overcrowding, hygiene problems, and cockroach and bedbug infestations.” The BHC and the ombudsman identified several additional problems, including overcrowding, poor access to health care and its poor quality wherever available, declining access to education, and unjustified use of handcuffs in detention facilities and hospitals.

The BHC reported extremely poor conditions in the overcrowded detention center in Gabrovo, “the last underground jail,” located below ground level, with poor access to natural light, no ventilation, poor hygiene, no toilet or bathing facilities in the cells, and limited open-air space.

Freedom House Country Report

2018 Edition

[accessed 11 May 2020]


Police brutality, including occasional torture of suspects in custody, continued in 2017. Overcrowding and violence plague many of Bulgaria’s prisons. Organized crime is still a major issue, and scores of suspected contract killings since the 1990s remain unsolved.

Anti-torture committee says conditions in social care institutions could be described as inhuman and degrading; the situation in penitentiary establishments generally improved

Council of Europe 2018 News, 4 May 2018

[accessed 17 May 2019]

More generally, the Committee noted that there was a severe problem of a generalised infestation with bed bugs, including in recently refurbished facilities. The Bulgarian authorities informed the CPT that all mattresses, bed sheets, pillows and blankets in penitentiary establishments would be replaced by the end of August 2018.

The Committee further notes that corruption remains a serious issue in Bulgarian prisons. As observed on previous CPT visits, prison staff appeared to be the major source of contraband coming into prisons; further, the delegation again heard allegations that some staff demanded payments for issues such as a positive assessment of the inmate’s behaviour and providing a work place.

Turning to psychiatric establishments, the CPT’s delegation received various allegations at Radnevo Psychiatric Hospital according to which patients were sometimes slapped and occasionally hit, kicked and punched by orderlies. Furthermore, orderlies there were said to carry sticks (later found by the delegation) to assert their authority and threaten the patients.

Concern expressed over Bulgaria torture statement

Pan European Networks in Congleton, UK, Europe, 31 March 2015

[accessed 9 April 2015]

The chair of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Sub-Committee on Human Rights, Meritxell Mateu Pi, has said she is “deeply worried” about the public statement by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) on Bulgaria.

She said: “The persistent failure, over many years, by the Bulgarian authorities to address the long-standing concerns of the CPT concerning, inter alia, ill treatment of prisoners by police officers and prison guards, inter-prisoner violence, prison overcrowding and poor material conditions of detention is unacceptable in a state party to the Council of Europe’s Anti-Torture Convention.”

23rd General Report of the CPT - European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment - 1 August 2012 - 31 July 2013

Council of Europe, Strasbourg, 6 November 2013

[accessed 7 Nov 2013]

39. At Burgas Prison, the delegation heard many allegations of frequent physical ill-treatment by staff and, in several cases, recent bruises and abrasions consistent with allegations of ill-treatment were observed. In one case, CCTV footage viewed by the delegation confirmed allegations of assault of an inmate by a prison officer. In their response, the Bulgarian authorities inform the CPT that, following investigations carried out into that case as well as other serious matters identified by the delegation, two staff members including the Prison Director had been dismissed. Further, an action plan had been drawn up including the carrying out of a comprehensive review of the overall functioning of Burgas Prison and an assessment of the weaknesses in the management of the establishment as well as of the problems encountered by the inmate population.

Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture

U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment  -- Doc. CAT/C/BGR/CO/4-5 (2011)

[accessed 24 February 2013]

18. The Committee is concerned about the lack of legislation in the State party ensuring the non-admissibility of evidence obtained as a result of torture (art. 15).

The Committee recommends that the State party enact legislation specifically prohibiting the use of statements obtained under torture as evidence in conformity with the Convention (art. 15) and that the competent authorities of the State party compile statistics and submit to the Committee cases where evidence obtained as a result of torture has been held inadmissible.

22. The Committee is concerned at the reported continued existence of underground investigative detention facilities in five locations where remand prisoners are held. It is concerned that some cells do not have windows, some have less than 1 m2 of living space per detainee while others do not have possibilities for outdoor exercise. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned by conditions of detention in many police stations where cells do not conform to international standards of hygiene and are unsustainable for overnight use, and that in some cases detained persons spend the first 24 hours in an area with bars referred to as the “cage”, at times in full view of visitors to the police station. While noting that handcuffing people to bars and pipes has been prohibited, the Committee is concerned at reports that some detainees were handcuffed to immovable objects such as radiators and piping or to a chair for up to six hours (art. 11).

The Committee recommends that:

(a) The State party take urgent measures to ensure that the treatment of remand prisoners in investigative detention centres and detainees in police stations conforms to international standards. It urges the State party to build new investigative detention centres or adapt and renovate existing facilities so that all persons are detained above the ground and that they meet minimal international standards. Police detention facilities should have a sufficient number of cells suitable for overnight stay with adequate material conditions such as clean mattresses and blankets and adequate lighting, ventilation and heating; and

(b) Handcuffing persons to immovable objects should be forbidden by law and in practice.

24. The Committee is concerned that detainees continue to be held in solitary confinement for disciplinary violations for up to 14 days and for up to two months for the purpose of prevention of escape, violation of life or death of other persons and other crimes. The Committee is also concerned that current legislation imposes a strict regime of segregation during the initial five-year period, ordered by the sentencing for prisoners serving a life sentence, and that these prisoners are routinely handcuffed when outside their cells. The Committee is particularly concerned that some asylum-seekers are also placed in solitary confinement for long periods (arts. 2, 11 and 16).

The Committee recommends that the State party consider the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (A/66/268) in which he urges States to prohibit the imposition of solitary confinement as punishment – either as a part of a judicially imposed sentence or a disciplinary measure – and recommends that States develop and implement alternative disciplinary sanctions to avoid the use of solitary confinement (para. 84). The Committee recommends the reduction of the periods of solitary confinement and the restrictions related thereto. The practice of placing asylum-seekers in solitary confinement should be stopped without delay.


From an old article -- URL not available

Article was published sometime prior to 2015

TORTURE AND OTHER ILL-TREATMENT - In November, the UN Committee against Torture expressed concerns over excessive use of force and of firearms by law enforcement officers. It called on Bulgaria to take measures to eradicate all forms of harassment and ill-treatment by police during investigations.


For current articles:: Search Amnesty International Website

[accessed 25 December 2018]

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Bulgaria: Anti-torture committee says conditions in social care institutions could be described as inhuman and degrading; the situation in penitentiary establishments generally improved

Council of Europe, 2018 News, 4 May 2018

[accessed 25 May 2018]

The unit at Radovets Home accommodating the most disabled residents contained only two large dormitories and no sanitary facilities. In one of the two dormitories (known to the residents as the “pissy room”) hygiene conditions did not befit a care institution and could be described as inhuman and degrading. Residents were found lying on their beds, completely covered in flies, with the floor flooded with urine and littered with faeces. After the visit, the Bulgarian authorities informed the CPT that two new sanitary facilities had been constructed in the establishment, new bedding was ordered, and measures were being taken to ensure compliance with sanitary standards.

Despite recourse to seclusion in social care homes being forbidden by Bulgarian law, the CPT’s delegation found that three seriously mentally disabled residents of Kachulka Home, who were deemed especially dangerous, were placed by staff alone in reinforced locked rooms for days on end. In Radovets Home, staff acknowledged that one resident, deemed to be especially unpredictable, was sometimes placed in a makeshift seclusion room under a set of outdoor stairs for hours on end.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 21 January 2013]

[accessed 3 July 2019]

TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMAN, OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT – The law prohibits such practices; however, police commonly beat criminal suspects, particularly minorities.

Police often mistreated criminal suspects in police custody, most often during the initial interrogation. Human rights observers charged that police sometimes handled minor offenses by arresting suspects, beating them, and releasing them within a 24-hour period, so that no judicial involvement was required (see section 1.d.). The Romani nongovernmental organization (NGO) Romani Baht reported receiving complaints of police brutality from Romani victims who were too intimidated to lodge an official complaint with the authorities.

On May 5, two police officers in Pernik reportedly beat Rossen Stoyadinov, a Rom, who was not informed of his rights as a detainee and was forced to confess to thefts (see section 1.d.). Stoyadinov later obtained a medical certificate for the injuries from a local doctor and filed a complaint with the Ministry of Interior.

Human rights groups claimed that medical examinations to investigate police abuses were not properly documented, that allegations of police abuse were seldom investigated thoroughly, and that offending officers were very rarely punished.

At year's end an investigation by the Sofia military prosecutor's office was still ongoing in the case of charges of police brutality stemming from a January 2004 incident in which two Sofia police officers unleashed their dog on Assen Zarev, a Rom, after questioning him about the whereabouts of another person. The officers reportedly beat Zarev and threatened to shoot him. An internal inquiry conducted by the MOI found no abuse of authority on the part of the police officers.

The appeal of two police officers was ongoing at year's end following their May sentencing by the Plovdiv military court for their role in the March 2004 beating of 22-year-old detainee Boris Daskalov. The court gave two of the police officers involved 18-month suspended sentences, and fined their direct supervisor. In April 2004 the MOI inspectorate confirmed that the police officers had exceeded their powers, and seven police officers received disciplinary sanctions for the incident.

U.S. Library of Congress - Country Study 1993

Library of Congress Call Number DR55 .B724 1993

[accessed 19 July 2017]

LAW AND ORDER - PENAL SYSTEM – By 1991 Bulgaria had already implemented one stage of prison reform to improve its international human rights image: prisons were put under the Ministry of Justice instead of the Ministry of Internal Security.

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Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, " Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance & Other Ill Treatment in the early years of the 21st Century- Bulgaria",, [accessed <date>]