Prominent human rights activist attacked
As Bulgaria elects its new president, a recent attack on a prominent human rights activist highlights the need for civic space to be continually defended. On 27th October, the chairman of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) Krassmir Kanev was attacked by two unknown assailants in front of the Radisson hotel in Sofia. The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee is the largest human rights organisation in Bulgaria. During the attack, Mr. Kanev was hit in the face and stomach and police were called on site after the incident to conduct an investigation. According to the authorities Kanev sustained a few minor injuries. BHC released a statement on the day of the attack:
BHC strongly condemns the attack on its chairperson and calls on the authorities to take immediate actions to identify the perpetrators, including obtaining records from security cameras at the scene as soon as possible.
BHC stands against any form of violence. Over the years, staff members have been repeatedly harassed and threatened because of their work in defence of human rights in Bulgaria, but until now there have not been any cases of physical assault.
The UN Human Rights Regional Office for Europe also released a statement expressing its concern following the attack on Mr. Kanev, while regional organisation the Civic Solidarity Platform expressed solidarity with Krassimir Kanev and members of Bulgarian human rights community. Their statement highlights the trend of past attacks and calls on Bulgarian authorities to implement the country's international obligations by taking all necessary steps to protect human rights defenders in the country.
In October, Bulgarian miners took the drastic and dangerous step of holding a protest underground. Several of those involved required medical attention after spending upwards of 12 hours in the mine as part of their mobilisation against proposed job loses. The protest was organised by employees of a mine owned by prominent Bulgarian businessman Hristo Kovachki. The miners were dissatisfied with non-payment of their salaries and the prospect of mine closures which could see 650 of 700 jobs axed in one mine. The Bulgarian Energy Minister, Temenuzhka Petkova, declared that she could not interfere with the work of Kovachki's company due to the fact that these are relations regulated entirely between the worker and the employer.