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World : Europe : Bulgaria
 
Bulgaria

The first Bulgarian state was recognized in 681 A.D. and was a mixture of Slavs and Bulgars. Several years later, the First Bulgarian Kingdom or the "Golden Age" emerged under Tsar Simeon I in 893-927. During this time, Bulgarian art and literature flourished. Also during the ninth century, Orthodox Christianity became the primary religion in Bulgaria and the Cyrillic alphabet was established.

In 1018, Bulgaria fell under the authority of the Byzantine Empire. Byzantine rule was short-lived, however. By 1185 Bulgarians had broken free of Byzantine rule and, in 1202, they established the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. Ottoman domination of the Balkan Peninsula eventually affected Bulgaria in the late 14th century, and by 1396, Bulgaria had become part of the Ottoman Empire.

Following the Russo-Turkish War (1877-78) and the Treaty of Berlin (1885), Bulgaria gained some autonomy under the Ottoman Empire, but complete independence was not recognized until 1908.

The early-to-mid-1900s in Bulgaria was characterized by social and political unrest. Bulgaria participated in the First and Second Balkan Wars (1912 and 1913) and sided with the Central Powers and later the Axis Powers during the two World Wars. (Although allied with Germany during World War II, Bulgaria never declared war on Russia.)

Following the defeat of the Axis Powers, communism emerged as the dominant political force within Bulgaria. Former King Simeon II, who is currently Prime Minister, was forced into exile in 1946 and remained primarily in Madrid, Spain, until April 2001, when he returned to Bulgaria. (Note: Simeon assumed control of the throne in 1943 at the age of 6 following the death of his father Boris III. By 1946, Bulgaria had become a satellite of the Soviet Union, remaining so throughout the Cold War period. Todor Zhivkov ruled Bulgaria for much of its time under communism, and during his 27 years as leader of Bulgaria, democratic opposition was crushed, agriculture and industry were nationalized, and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church fell under the control of the state.

In 1989, Zhivkov relinquished control, and democratic change began. The first multi-party elections since World War II were held in 1990. The ruling communist party changed its name to the Bulgarian Socialist Party and won the June 1990 elections. Following a period of social unrest and passage of a new constitution, the first fully democratic parliamentary elections were held in 1991 in which the United Democratic Front won. The first direct presidential elections were held the next year.

As Bulgaria emerged from the throes of communism, it experienced a period of social and economic unrest. With the help of the international community, former Prime Minister Ivan Kostov initiated a series of economic reforms in 1997 that helped stabilize the country. Recent elections in 2001 ushered in a new government and president, but the new leadership in Sofia remains committed to Euro-Atlantic integration, democratic reform, and development of a market-based economy.

 

ECONOMY

Bulgaria's economy contracted dramatically after 1989 with the collapse of the COMECON system and the loss of the Soviet market, to which the Bulgarian economy had been closely tied. The standard of living fell by about 40%. In addition, UN sanctions against Yugoslavia and Iraq took a heavy toll on the Bulgarian economy. The first signs of recovery emerged when GDP grew in 1994 for the first time since 1988, by 1.4% and then by 2.5% in 1995. Inflation, which surged in 1994 to 122%, fell to 32.9% in 1995. During 1996, however, the economy collapsed due to shortsighted economic reforms and an unstable and decapitalized banking system.

Under the leadership of former Prime Minister Ivan Kostov (UDF), who came to power in 1997, an ambitious set of reforms were launched, including introduction of a currency board regime, bringing growth and stability to the Bulgarian economy. Three-digit inflation in 1997 fell to 2.6% in 1999. GDP grew 3.5% in 1998, 2.4% in 1999, and due to an increase in investments and exports, the GDP rose to 5.8% in 2000.

In spite of the transition to a new government in July 2001, Bulgaria remains committed to the market reforms undertaken in 1997. The new government's economic team is young, energetic, and Western-trained. Recent measures introduced by Prime Minister Saxe-Coburg seek to reduce taxes, curtail corruption, and attract foreign investment. While economic forecasts for 2002 and 2003 predict continued growth in the Bulgarian economy, the government still faces high unemployment and low standards of living.

The country, with a population of approximately 7.9 million, was in transition from an economy dominated by loss-making state enterprises concentrated in heavy industry, to one dominated by the private sector. Approximately 80 percent of state assets destined for privatization already have been sold. Principal exports were agricultural products, tobacco products, chemicals and metals, although light industry--including textiles and apparel--was growing in importance. During the year, gross domestic product (GDP) growth was 4.4 percent, and the inflation rate was 3.8 percent. The private sector accounted for approximately 61.3 percent of GDP. Persistent high unemployment was a problem.

 

BELIEFS

In 1991 most Bulgarians were at least nominally members of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, an independent national church like the Russian Orthodox Church and the other national branches of Eastern Orthodoxy. Because of its national character and its status as the national church in every independent Bulgarian state until the advent of communism, the church was considered an inseparable element of Bulgarian national consciousness. Baptism, before 1944 an indispensable rite establishing individual identity, retained this vital role for many even after the communists took power. The power of this tradition caused the communist state to introduce a naming ritual called "civil baptism" (grazhdansko krushtvane).

Although communist regimes could not eliminate all influence, they did undermine church authority significantly. First, the communists ruled that the church only had authority on church matters and could not take part in political life. Second, although the constitution made the church separate from the state, the clergy's salaries and the fees needed to maintain the churches were paid by the state. This meant that the clergy had to prove its loyalty to the state. From 1949 until 1989, religion in Bulgaria was mainly controlled by the Law on Religious Organizations, which enumerated the limitations on the constitution's basic separation of church and state.

The number of Orthodox priests declined from 3,312 in 1947 to 1,700 in 1985. Priests associated with the prewar regime were accused of engaging in illegal or antisocialist activities, supporting the opposition, and propagandizing against the state. Upon taking control of all church property, the state had the choice of maintaining churches or closing them down. Thus, for example, Rila Monastery, the largest monastery in Bulgaria, became a national museum in 1961.

In 1987 the Orthodox Church had 3,720 churches and chapels, 120 monasteries, 981 regular and 738 retired priests, 135 monks, and 170 nuns. The church was administered by a Holy Synod. Under communist rule, the synod had the authority to publish limited quantities of religious material such as magazines, newspapers, and church calendars. A new translation of the Bible was published in 1982, but in such small quantities that the size of the printing could not be determined. By 1988 the 1982 edition was being resold at ten times the original price.

After the fall of Zhivkov, the Orthodox Church and other churches in Bulgaria experienced a revival. Church rituals such as baptisms and church weddings attracted renewed interest, and traditional church holidays were observed more widely. Christmas 1990, the first Christmas under the new regime, was widely celebrated and greatly promoted in the mass media. By contrast, Christmas had received little public attention during the postwar years. The government returned some church property, including the Rila Monastery, and religious education and Bible study increased in the early post-Zhivkov years. The Orthodox seminary in Sofia returned to its original home in 1990 and attracted over 100 male and female students in its first year of operation. The Konstantin Preslavski Higher Pedagogical Institute added a new theology department to train theology, art, and music teachers as well as priests. The Holy Synod planned to publish 300,000 Orthodox Bibles in 1992.

The 1893 census listed the following nationalities and religious groups in order of prevalence: Eastern Rite Orthodox Bulgarians, Turks, Romanians, Greeks, Gypsies, Jews, Muslim Bulgarians, Catholic Bulgarians, Tatars, Gagauzi (a Turkishspeaking people of the Eastern Orthodox faith), Armenians, Protestant Bulgarians, Vlachs (a Romanian-speaking people in southwest Bulgaria), and foreigners of various nationalities, mainly Russians and Germans.

Migrations and boundary changes after the two world wars reduced the list somewhat; few Greeks and Romanians remained in Bulgaria by 1990. However, Bulgaria's communist leaders often tried to deny the existence of minority groups by manipulating or suppressing census data or by forcibly assimilating "undesirable" groups. In 1985, at the height of the last anti-Turkish assimilation campaign, a leading Bulgarian Communist Party official declared Bulgaria "a one-nation state" and affirmed that "the Bulgarian nation has no parts of other peoples and nations."

After the fall of Todor Zhivkov in 1989, all the minorities in Bulgaria progressed somewhat toward self-determination and freedom of expression. New minority organizations and political parties sprang up, and minority groups began publishing their own newspapers and magazines. Non-Bulgarian nationalities regained the right--curtailed in the Zhivkov era--to use their original names, speak their language in public, and wear their national dress. In 1991 significant controversy remained, however, as to how far the rights of minorities should extend. Legislators making policy on such issues as approval of non-Bulgarian names and Turkish-language schools faced mass protests by nationalist Bulgarians, who successfully delayed liberalization of government policy on those issues.

 

CRIMINAL CODES

In 1991 the court system operated basically as it had before 1989. The administration of justice was based on the penal code of 1968 and several subsequent amendments to it, and on the constitution of 1971. In general the courts had little independence and the Ministry of Justice had few powers under the former regime. In 1991, however, the National Assembly was considering draft laws on penal procedure, punishment, courts, amnesty, state secrets, and travel abroad. It sought to guarantee accused persons access to defense counsel during each phase of the legal process, to eliminate detention on suspicion, and to ensure that three judges and four lay jurors, called assessors, would preside over trials involving particularly grievous crimes in which the death penalty would be a possible sentence.

The court system consisted of municipal, provincial, and military courts, the Supreme Court, and public prosecutors at corresponding levels. The National Assembly elected the judges of the Supreme Court, its president, and the chief prosecutor to five year terms. The chief prosecutor selected and supervised prosecutors to serve at the municipal and province levels and enforced compliance with legal standards by the government, its officials, and all citizens, prosecuting cases involving major crimes detrimental to the national interests or economy of Bulgaria. Judges at lower levels were elected to five-year terms by their respective constituencies. Conciliation committees in enterprises or municipal courts ruled on labor disputes. The arbitration court adjudicated civil cases and disputes between enterprises.

Under the penal code inherited from the Zhivkov era, crimes against the socialist economy or socialist property generally were punished more severely than crimes against persons. Major economic crimes, misappropriation, and serious malfeasance were punished rigorously. Directors and managers could be held criminally liable for the shortcomings of their enterprises. Six-year prison terms were levied for crimes such as conducting private economic activity while representing a state enterprise and receiving economic benefits for work or services not rendered. Illegally crossing national borders was punishable by a fine of 3,000 leva and a fiveyear prison term, with heavier penalties for recidivists. In the reform period, an increasing number of minor offenses were changed to receive administrative punishments such as fines up to 300 leva. These administrative proceedings represented rather arbitrary justice because the accused did not have the right to trial or legal counsel. The administrative proceedings were an expedient designed to alleviate a tremendous backlog of minor cases. Beginning in 1990, the dismantling of the state enterprise system called for shifting the emphasis of the criminal code from protection of state property to protection of the individual. This shift was attempted in the new constitution ratified by the National Assembly in July 1991. Independence of the judicial system, needed to standardize and clarify the administration of justice, received little attention in initial rounds of reform, however.

 

INCIDENCE OF CRIME

The crime rate in Bulgaria is low compared to industrialized countries. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for Bulgaria. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. Bulgaria will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate). According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 2002 was 5.27 per 100,000 population for Bulgaria, 1.10 for Japan, and 5.61 for USA. For rape, the rate in 2002 was 6.27 for Bulgaria, compared with 1.78 for Japan and 31.77 for USA. For robbery, the rate in 2002 was 58.83 for Bulgaria, 4.08 for Japan, and 148.50 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 2002 was 1.12 for Bulgaria, 23.78 for Japan, and 318.55 for USA. For burglary, the rate in 2002 was 399.00 for Bulgaria, 233.60 for Japan, and 740.80 for USA. The rate of larceny for 2002 was 602.90 for Bulgaria, 1401.26 for Japan, and 2484.64 for USA. The rate for motor vehicle theft in 2002 was 133.04 for Bulgaria, compared with 44.28 for Japan and 430.64 for USA. The rate for all index offenses combined was 1206.43 for Bulgaria, compared with 1709.88 for Japan and 4160.51 for USA. (Note that Japan data are for year 2000 and USA data are for 2001.)

 

TRENDS IN CRIME

Between 1995 and 2002, according to INTERPOL data, the rate of murder decreased from 5.48 to 5.27 per 100,000 population, a decrease of 3.8%. The rate for rape decreased from 8.92 to 6.27, a decrease of 29.7%. The rate of robbery decreased from 72.87 to 58.83, a decrease of 19.3%. The rate for aggravated assault decreased from 14.79 to 1.12, a decrease of 92.4%. The rate for burglary decreased from 957.38 to 399.00, a decrease of 58.3%. The rate of larceny decreased from 764.83 to 602.90, a decrease of 21.2%. The rate of motor vehicle theft increased from 29.09 to 133.04, an increase of 357.3%. The rate of total index offenses decreased from 1853.36 to 1206.43, a decrease of 34.9%. (Note that 1995 data for larceny are drawn from 1996 report - no data were reported for larceny in 1996.)

 

POLICE

The Bulgarian National Police is a specialized department of the Ministry of Interior and functions to prevent, detect and investigate crimes and to secure the public order. The activities of the National Police are regulated by the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria, the National Police Act, the Decree of the Council of Ministers for the application of the National Police Act, and by other statutes and regulations. The National Police is comprised of officers and sergeants. Although the department has a militaristic organizational structure, it recruits civilians to assist in personnel duties. The National Police is structured according to the administrative division of the country and comprises the Directorate of the National Police, 27 Police Departments in the Sofia Directorate of Interior and the Regional Directorates of Interior, municipal police departments, and neighborhood police stations. There are also subdivisions in various territories which correspond to the specific tasks of the National Police, such as the "Criminal Police," "Economic Police," "Police Unit for Securing the Public Order," and "Traffic Police."

Internal security services were the responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) and included the National Police, the National Service for Combating Organized Crime, the National Security Service (civilian domestic intelligence), the National Gendarmerie Service (paramilitary police), and the Border Police. Although Government control over the police improved, it still was not sufficient to ensure full accountability. The Special Investigative Service (SIS), which provided investigative support to prosecutors on serious criminal cases, was a judicial branch agency and therefore was not under direct executive branch control. The media reported that the public order services, such as the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and National Bodyguard Service (NBS), were not subject to adequate judicial, executive, or legislative oversight of their activities or budgets. Some members of the police committed serious human rights abuses.

There were no reports of political killings. However, there were three reported killings by security services, compared with eight such killings in 2001.

In regards to torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment Bulgaria's Constitution prohibits such practices; however, police commonly beat criminal suspects, particularly members of minorities, at times to extract false testimony. Security force personnel also physically abused street children, the majority of whom were Roma.

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence, and the Government generally respected these provisions in practice; however, there were regular reports of mail, especially foreign mail, being delayed or opened.

 

DETENTION

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, there were restrictions on this right in some cases. Police often arbitrarily arrested and detained street children, the majority of whom were Roma. There were no reports during the year that police detained members of minority religious groups because of their beliefs.

Police normally obtained a warrant from a prosecutor prior to apprehending an individual; however, warrants were not always required for arrest. If the person was released without being charged before the 24-hour period elapsed, there was no judicial involvement in the case. Human rights observers charged that police often handled minor offenses by arresting suspects, beating them, and releasing them within the 24-hour period. Persons could be detained for no more than 24 hours at the request of an investigating magistrate or a police officer; however, detention could last for up to 72 hours if ordered by a prosecutor.

The Constitution provides for access to legal counsel from the time of detention; however, a 1999 survey of prisoners conducted by the BHC found that 54 percent of prisoners complained that they had no lawyer present during preliminary investigations. In April the BHC released the results of a 2000 survey of 1,001 prisoners. More than 70 percent reported that they had had no legal representation during the preliminary investigation of their cases.

Defendants had the right to visits by family members, to examine evidence, and to know the charges against them. Charges could not be made public without the permission of the Prosecutor General. To enable a speedy trial, the law requires that investigations last no more than 2 months under normal circumstances, although this period could be extended to 6 months by the head regional prosecutor, and to 9 months by the Prosecutor General.

Only judges could determine whether to hold suspects in custody or set bail.

Human rights NGOs reported that the Government generally observed the statutory limit of 1 year for pretrial detention or 2 years in the case of the most serious crimes. While human rights lawyers noted some continuing violations of this law, increasingly these situations became exceptions rather than common practice. There also appeared to be a legal consensus that the pretrial detention limits applied cumulatively to all of the separate periods of detention, for example, in cases where defendants' cases were sent to the courts for review and returned to prosecutors for further investigation. This was a change from earlier practice, when such a situation restarted the clock on the defendant's pretrial detention. However, many cases still formally could be deemed to be in the on-trial phase for an extended period of time. This occurred when a case file had been presented to the court by prosecutors but had not yet been acted upon by the judge. Cases could, not uncommonly, remain in this situation for months, while the defendant remained in custody. The Ministry of Justice reported that in 2001 there were approximately 1,000 accused persons in pretrial detention centers, 1,100 indicted persons in the country's 13 jails and 23 labor correction hostels, and 8,971 convicted prisoners.

The Constitution provides for bail, and some detainees in the past were released under this provision, although bail was not used widely. In the event of a conviction, the time spent in pretrial detention was credited toward the sentence.

Human rights observers reported that in many localities, children could be held for months in educational boarding schools on the basis of police referral before a local commission convened to make a decision on the case.

The Constitution prohibits forced exile, and the Government did not employ it.

 

COURTS

The legal system of Bulgaria is based on a civil law system, with Soviet law influence. Bulgaria has accepted the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.

The judiciary branch is independent from the rest of the government. It consists of the courts, prosecutors offices, and investigative agencies, which are all independent institutions within the judiciary. They are structured on the basis of territorial and functional principles. There are several types of courts: the Supreme Court of Cassation, the Supreme Administrative Court, the appellate courts, and the district and regional courts. Laymen take part in court processes only in the cases provided for by the law. The structure of the prosecutor's offices corresponds to the structure of the courts. There is a General Prosecutor's Office, appellate office, and a district and regional prosecutor's office. The General Prosecutor guides and supervises the legality of the activities of all prosecutors. The prosecutors enforce the law by bringing charges against criminal suspects and supporting the charges in criminal trials; by overseeing the execution of punishments; and by taking part in civil and administrative suits when required to do so by the law. Specialized courts may be constituted only by law. Extraordinary courts are not allowed by the Constitution.

The Constitution grants the judiciary independent and coequal status with the legislative and executive branches; however, problems in the judiciary remained, including a lack of transparent and neutral standards for assigning cases, poor coordination between prosecutors, investigators, and the courts, corruption, low salaries and understaffing, antiquated procedures, and a heavy backlog of cases.

The European Union Accession Report on Judicial Independence, issued in 2001, stated that because the Constitution provides that the "judicial power" includes prosecutors and investigators as well as judges, the separation of powers was blurred and the independence of judges was compromised. The report also found that the Ministry of Justice continued to exercise extensive administrative powers and that the Government influenced the appointment and promotion of judges and prosecutors and also influenced the outcome of cases. Partly as a legacy of communism and partly because of the court system's structural and personnel problems, many citizens had little confidence in the judicial system. Long delays in trials were common. Human rights groups complained that local prosecutors and magistrates sometimes failed to pursue vigorously crimes committed against minorities. Many observers believed that reforms were essential to establish a fair and impartial, as well as efficient, judicial system. Since 2000 the Government has operated reform programs to upgrade the expertise of the judiciary with the help of international donor organizations. According to observers, these actions produced limited results.

Crime and corruption remained primary concerns of the Government. In July the National Assembly amended the Judicial Systems Act that empowered the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) to vote on removing the immunity of the Prosecutor General--who previously had been unaccountable--and judges. Some members of the judiciary promptly challenged the amendments, and in December the Constitutional Court overturned them.

During the year, the Government established an anticorruption commission and amended the law to provide for a post-privatization control mechanism. The National Assembly approved amendments to the penal code that prohibited the solicitation of bribes and amended the law on privatization to provide for a post-privatization control mechanism. Politicians and NGOs continued to criticize the Prosecutor General's office for its failure to prosecute vigorously large numbers of serious criminal cases, leaving the impression that it lacked the will to crack down on organized crime and corruption.

Observers noted modest improvement in the efficiency of moving cases through the criminal system, although many serious systemic flaws remained. The police continued to struggle with a large backlog of outstanding investigations, some up to 10 years old, which they inherited from the former investigative service.

The court system consisted of regional courts, district courts, and Supreme Courts of Cassation (civil and criminal appeal) and Administration. A Constitutional Court, which was separate from the rest of the court system, was empowered to rescind legislation that it considered unconstitutional, settle disputes over the conduct of general elections, and resolve conflicts over the division of powers between the various branches of government. Military courts handled cases involving military personnel (including police personnel) and some cases involving national security matters. The Constitutional Court did not have specific jurisdiction in matters of military justice.

Judges were appointed by the 25-member SJC and, after serving for 3 years, could not be removed except under limited, specified circumstances. The difficulty and rarity of replacing judges, virtually regardless of performance, often was cited as a hindrance to effective law enforcement. The 12 justices on the Constitutional Court were chosen for 9-year terms as follows: One-third were selected by the National Assembly, one-third appointed by the President, and one-third selected by judicial authorities. During 2001 the question of whether investigating magistrates enjoyed overly broad immunity--and thus generally were free from disciplinary measures for incompetence or corruption--led to a proposal to limit magistrates' immunity that failed in the National Assembly. The internal mechanisms that controlled corruption in the judicial system were weak. Due to its composition and inadequate support staff, the SJC, which was responsible for the proper administration of justice and drafting the judiciary's budget, was not able effectively to set the judiciary's budget, ensure the effectiveness of judges, or protect the judiciary's independence. The European Union Accession Report on Judicial Independence reported that the SJC's mixed composition and its mandate to represent the entire judicial system (judges, prosecutors, and investigators) made it an ineffective representative of judges and their independence.

Local observers contended that organized crime influenced the prosecutor's office. Few organized crime figures have been prosecuted to date. According to the National Service for Combating Organized Crime, approximately 110 organized crime groups operated in the country. Domestic NGOs estimated that between 25 and 35 percent of the economy was linked to or controlled by organized crime. The MOI requested and received assistance from foreign governments in its efforts to close legal loopholes and strengthen enforcement capabilities against criminal groups engaged in racketeering and other illegal activities.

The Constitution stipulates that all courts shall conduct hearings in public unless the proceedings involve state security or national secrets, and authorities generally respected this provision. Defendants had the right to know the charges against them and were given ample time to prepare a defense. The right of appeal was provided for and was used widely. Defendants in criminal proceedings had the right to confront witnesses and to have an attorney, provided by the state if necessary, in serious cases.

The judiciary continued to suffer from a heavy backlog of cases, which resulted in long delays for trials. During the year, the backlog that had accumulated in the 1990s continued to be reduced. During the first 6 months of the year, Ministry of Justice statistics indicated that 53,908 new criminal cases had been filed, while 59,422 had been resolved. A total of 117,088 new civil cases had been filed in the same time period, and 130,944 civil cases resolved. There were 29,207 criminal and 88,189 civil cases outstanding at the end of June. The practice of plea bargaining, introduced in 2000, had not yet effectively lightened the caseload for prosecutors in its 3 years of operation. In addition, plea bargaining reportedly was perceived by many citizens as a way for the wealthy to buy their way out of charges.

Human rights observers considered educational boarding schools (formerly known as Labor Education Schools), to which problem children could be sent, as little different from penal institutions. However, since the schools were not considered prisons under the law, the procedures by which children were confined in these schools were not subject to minimal due process; several human rights organizations criticized this denial of due process. Children sometimes appeared alone despite the requirement that parents must attend hearings; the right to an attorney at the hearing is prohibited expressly by law. Decisions in these cases were not subject to judicial review, and children typically stayed in the educational boarding schools for 3 years or until they reached majority age, whichever occurred first. The law provides for court review of sentencing to such schools, sets a limit of a 3-year stay, and addresses some other problems in these institutions; however, human rights activists dismissed this court review provision as a formality, since the child was not present to speak on his or her own behalf (nor was the defense lawyer or the child's parents).

 

CORRECTIONS

The Execution of Punishments Act defines three types of facilities for imprisonment. Centers for correction and work of the open type are used for offenders who for the first time have been given a maximum sentence of 3 years imprisonment for deliberate crimes or a maximum of 5 years imprisonment for crimes of negligence. In 1993, there were seven open-type correctional centers. Centers for correction and work of the semi-open type are used for offenders who for the first time have been given a maximum sentence of 3 to 5 years imprisonment for deliberate crimes or for offenders who are sentenced for crimes of negligence but do not serve their punishment in open-type facilities. In 1993, there were five semi-open type correctional centers. Centers for correction and work of the closed type and prisons are used for all other persons sentenced to imprisonment. In 1993, there were six closed-type correction centers and eight prisons. In 1993, there were three correctional facilities used specifically for minors, one of which was exclusively for women. Each facility has its own regime. Regimes are classified as lenient, general, strict, and highly strict. The sentence generally defines the regime the offender will be placed under. Sentenced offenders are housed separately from convicted offenders who are awaiting sentence and from arrested defendants.

Conditions in some prisons remained harsh and included severe overcrowding, inadequate lavatory facilities, and insufficient heating and ventilation. The SIS's parallel network of jails and prisons contains many of the harshest detention facilities. NGO prison monitors reported that brutality committed by prison guards against inmates continued to be a problem. The Government reported that it was in the process of renovating facilities in Belene, Plovdiv, Stara Zagora, and Vratsa and had closed down four detention facilities because they did not meet standards. Prison authorities sustained their efforts against tuberculosis, instituting a new procedure for regular testing. The process by which prisoners may complain of substandard conditions or of mistreatment did not function effectively. Labor correction hostels were used to house criminals under age 18 and were less restrictive than prisons. Men and women could be housed in the same jail but were held in separate cells. Pretrial detainees were held separately from convicted criminals.

The Government generally cooperated with requests by independent observers to monitor conditions in most prisons and detention facilities. The BHC stated that its representatives have been allowed access to SIS facilities since 2001. Unlike the procedure in regular prisons, observers still were prohibited from interviewing detainees in the SIS facilities. Human rights monitors enjoyed good access to regular prisons.

 

WOMEN

Societal violence against women was a serious and common problem, but there were no official statistics on its occurrence. The Animus Association Foundation (AAF), an NGO that offered assistance and support to female victims of violence, estimated that one in five women suffered from spousal abuse. The law exempts from state prosecution certain types of assault if committed by a family member, and the Government generally did not assist in prosecuting domestic assault cases unless the woman was killed or injured permanently. Courts and prosecutors tended to view domestic abuse as a family matter rather than a criminal problem. In most cases, victims of domestic violence took refuge with family or friends rather than approach the authorities. Police often were reluctant to intervene in cases of domestic abuse, even if a woman called them seeking protection or assistance.

The Government did not take steps to combat violence against women and did not provide shelter or counseling for women. In Sofia the NGO Nadya De Center provided shelter to battered women, and the AAF opened a crisis center that provided short-term emergency shelter for female victims of violence. At year's end, there were 15 crisis centers around the country that provided assistance to female victims of violence. The AAF also operated a 24-hour hot line for women in crisis that was staffed by volunteer counselors, supported by 13 full-time professional therapists.

NGO observers reported a generally improved public attitude toward the problems of violence against women in the last few years. After several years of activism by various NGOs, the taboo against acknowledging and talking about domestic violence and violence against women has been broken. Observers also noted some increased sensitivity on the part of police to the issue. The AAF reported that it periodically received client referrals from police.

For the period January through June, the AAF reported that it had assisted 405 female victims of domestic violence, including 12 adolescents, 27 victims of sexual violence, and 18 traumatized witnesses or family members of the victims. However, observers believed that the actual incidence of each form of violence was much higher, as these represented only those cases where the victims (or, in some trafficking cases, an overseas women's group) were willing and able to contact the AAF.

Spousal rape is a crime, but it rarely was prosecuted. The courts prosecuted rape, although it remained an underreported crime because of the stigma which society attached to the victim. The maximum sentence for rape is 8 years; convicted offenders often received a lesser sentence or early parole. According to the MOI, 215 rapes and 64 attempted rapes were reported for the period January through June, compared with 197 and 35, respectively, from January to August 2001. According to a survey by a local polling agency, 80 percent of rapes involved an assailant known to the victim.

Prostitution was not prohibited by law; however, a variety of activities often associated with prostitution, such as pimping, were illegal. Forced prostitution was illegal, but remained a serious problem. Poor socioeconomic conditions contributed to a disproportionate number of Romani women drawn into organized prostitution.

Trafficking in women was a serious problem.

The law does not prohibit sexual harassment, and sexual harassment was a widespread problem. Labor unions reported that sexual harassment occurred in the clothing assembly industry, particularly in the southern parts of the country. A survey conducted by the Agency for Social Research (ASR) during the year found that approximately 40 percent of women had suffered sexual harassment in the workplace. Most incidents were unreported.

The Constitution forbids privileges or restrictions of rights on the basis of sex, and women were not impeded from owning or managing businesses, land, or other real property and do not suffer from discrimination under inheritance laws; however, women faced discrimination both in terms of job recruitment and the likelihood of layoffs.

Official figures showed the rate of unemployment to be higher for women than for men. Women were much more likely than men to be employed in low-wage jobs requiring little education. The National Statistical Institute reported that in late 2001, the average salary of a woman was 77 percent of the average salary of a man. An ASR survey found that 52 percent of the country's unemployed were women and that women received only 67 percent of the remuneration of their male counterparts due to limited overall opportunities for promotion. An Austrian government-funded survey on obstacles to female entrepreneurs in the country, carried out by the Foundation for Entrepreneurship Development, found that barriers included the unavailability of start-up capital, corruption, and low purchasing power. In 2000 there were half as many self-employed women as men, and women owned or managed only a third of domestic businesses.

Women were as likely as men to attend universities. However, in the workplace, women had less opportunity to upgrade their qualifications and generally secured lower-ranking and lower-paying positions than their male counterparts. Women generally continued to have primary responsibility for child rearing and housekeeping, even if they were employed outside the home. Since 80 percent of employed women work in the lowest-paying sectors of the labor force, they often needed to work two jobs in addition to their household duties in order to help provide for their families. Female-headed households frequently lived below the poverty line. There were liberal provisions for paid maternity leave; however, these actually could work against employers' willingness to hire and retain female employees. This was noticeable especially in higher-paying positions in the private sector, where many women with engineering degrees worked as secretaries.

The Government did not have programs to address economic discrimination or integrate women into the mainstream of society and the economy, although much NGO activity was focused on these areas.

Many of the approximately 30 women's organizations were associated closely with political parties or had primarily professional agendas. Some observers believed that women's organizations tended to be associated with political parties or professional groups because feminism had negative societal connotations. Of those organizations that existed mainly to defend women's interests, the two largest were the Women's Democratic Union in Bulgaria and the Bulgarian Women's Association. The Party of Bulgarian Women was one of the founding parties in the NMS coalition, which won the 2001 parliamentary elections.

 

CHILDREN

The Government generally was committed to protecting children's welfare; however, government efforts in education and health were constrained by serious budgetary limitations and by outmoded social care structures. The Constitution provides for mandatory school attendance until the age of 16. Public education was free, but children were required to pay for books, which was a problem for poor families. Fewer girls than boys attended school, especially among minority groups.

Many Roma and other observers made credible allegations that the quality of education offered to Romani children was inferior to that afforded to most other students. Some parents were reluctant to have too many Romani children enrolled in school because they feared it would lower the school's academic standards. Romani children and ethnic Bulgarian children generally attended separate schools, although integration programs, including busing, were started in several localities during the year. The Government largely was unsuccessful in attracting and keeping many Romani children in school. Schools in most Romani neighborhoods suffered from chronic absenteeism and very low graduation rates. Less than 8 percent of Romani children have completed secondary education, and less than 1 percent have graduated from college. Many Romani children arrived relatively unprepared for schooling; many were not proficient in the Bulgarian language. Since March a project in Silistra region provided weekend classes for Romani children under the age of 15 who were not in school.

Poverty led to widespread school truancy because many children in Romani ghettos could not afford shoes or basic school supplies, and instead turned to begging, prostitution, and petty crime on the streets. A social milieu that often did not highly value formal education also was a contributing factor. Lack of effective government infrastructure and programs and economic and social factors combined to deprive Romani youths of an education.

There were indications that some initiatives undertaken by the Government and by Romani NGOs were achieving small successes in mitigating these problems, for example by providing free lunches and subsidizing textbook and tuition costs. With the help of international donor funding, an ethnic reintegration effort began in schools in Vidin in 2000 and continued through the year. Since 2000 busing programs have operated in Vidin and elsewhere, although one Romani M.P. called the program a failure, and an EU representative in Sofia stated that there should be an assessment of the impact of the program around the country. Nevertheless, during the year, Romani children from the settlement continued to attend nonsegregated schools as a result of local and international nongovernmental initiatives, and the program was expanded to include the cities of Montana, Pleven, Stara Zagora, Sliven, and Khaskovo.

Conditions for children in state institutions were poor. At the end of 2001, according to the State Agency for Child Protection, there were approximately 35,000 children confined to 360 state or municipal institutions that were under the jurisdiction of 5 different government ministries. Only 2 percent of these children were orphans, but many had disabilities. Social attitudes towards children with disabilities led families to institutionalize their children if they had disabilities. Another 2,900 children were considered at risk and were forced to seek care in institutions because their families could or would not support them. Human rights monitors were sharply critical of the serious deficiencies in government-run institutions for children, including orphanages, educational boarding schools (reform schools), facilities for the mentally handicapped, and shelters for homeless children. These facilities were plagued by inadequate budgets, poorly trained and unqualified staff, and inadequate oversight. For example, the Government maintained a sizable network of orphanages throughout the country. However, many of the orphanages were in disrepair and lacked proper facilities. NGO monitors further alleged that even food budgets were highly deficient, with many institutions dependent on the uneven flow of private donations to feed their charges. Access to medical care and proper hygiene was poor.

There were few provisions for due process of law for Roma and other juveniles when they were detained in educational boarding schools run by the Ministry of Education. Living conditions at these reform schools were poor, offering few medical, educational, or social services. Generally, staff members at many such institutions lacked the proper qualifications and training to care for the children adequately. Degrading and severe punishment, such as the shaving of a child's head, reduction in diet, severe beatings, and long periods of solitary confinement, were common at the schools. Children in these institutions also did not have adequate access to medical care. Legislation provides for the court review of sentencing to such schools and addresses other problems in the reform school system; however, these provisions did not function in practice. Decisions to commit children to an educational boarding school were made by local commissions for combating juvenile delinquency, which generally were not held accountable to any higher authority. Standards differed among these local commissions in how closely prescribed procedures were followed. Human rights observers reported that in many localities, contrary to the law, a child could be held in such a facility on the basis of a police referral for months before the local commission convened to make a decision on the case. The U.N.'s Common Country Assessment for Bulgaria reported in 2001 that the children in these facilities could be subject to physical abuse and upon leaving these homes could be emotionally scarred and ill-prepared to face the outside world.

There was no societal pattern of abuse against children; however, some Romani children were targets of skinhead violence and arbitrary police detention; the homeless or abandoned particularly were vulnerable.

There were reports that family or community members forced some minors into prostitution. Child prostitution reportedly was particularly common among Romani youth.

Trafficking in girls was a problem.

 

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS

In October the National Assembly amended the penal code to make trafficking in persons a criminal offense; however, trafficking in women and girls was a serious problem, and the country remained a source, transit country, and destination for trafficked persons. There was no evidence of a pattern of official complicity in trafficking, although a number of law enforcement officers and other government authorities were involved in trafficking.

The punishment for trafficking in persons may include 1 to 8 years in prison and fines up to $4,000 (8,000 leva). If aggravated circumstances exist--e.g., a minor or kidnaping was involved--penalties increase to 2 to 10 years in imprisonment and fines of up to $5,000 (10,000 leva). A variety of additional laws could be used to prosecute persons for activities often associated with trafficking. Inducement to prostitution is punishable by up to 3 years' imprisonment, and the penalty rises to 10 to 20 years if the crime was performed by or through an organized crime group, if the victim was a minor under age 18 or legally incompetent, if two or more persons were induced into prostitution, or if the offense was repeated. Law enforcement officials complained that because the minimum penalty was less than 5 years' imprisonment, they were not permitted to use special investigative techniques, such as wiretapping, to deal with traffickers.

The Government investigated cases of trafficking; however, no suspected traffickers were brought to trial during the year, possibly because victims were afraid to confront their former criminal controllers in the absence of government-sponsored programs to assist or protect victims of trafficking. Some judges and prosecutors also reported that they feared reprisals from organized crime figures. There were two police units that specifically addressed the problem of trafficking in persons. One was part of the National Border Police and the other was in the Ministry of Interior's organized crime fighting agency, the National Service for Combating Organized Crime (NSBOP). In 2001 an interagency trafficking task force was established including the National Border Police and the NSBOP. During the year, it executed 65 search warrants, arrested 40 persons, and freed approximately 200 women and girls. Of these, an estimated 10 to 15 percent were victims of forced prostitution. The remainder appeared to have some awareness of their prospective work or their employers' intentions and methods. Approximately 60 to 65 percent of the women freed were citizens of the country.

Victims overwhelmingly were women and girls trafficked for the purposes of prostitution. Government authorities and NGO observers reported that thousands of Bulgarian women, as well as women from Romania, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, were trafficked for sexual exploitation to Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, Yugoslavia (including Kosovo), Bosnia, Italy, Poland, and Western Europe. La Strada, a Netherlands-based NGO, reported that Bulgarian women constituted one of the largest groups of victims of forced prostitution in Western and Central Europe. According to NGO sources, as many as 10,000 Bulgarian women, many from the Romani community or under the age of 18, could be involved in international trafficking operations. A 2001 report from the ILO's International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor estimated the number of child prostitutes at 3,800 based on rough data from police and from skin and venereal disease clinics. There were no official statistics; however, law enforcement authorities believed that the number was approximately 3,500. The AAF reported that from January to June it assisted 53 female victims of trafficking, of whom 11 were adolescents. The Romani community, with limited economic opportunity, was disproportionately represented. The bulk of clients were assisted by an AAF help line.

Girls and young women often were approached by persons who gained their trust, frequently other young women and acquaintances or persons introduced by mutual friends, who described glamorous work opportunities abroad. Some were sold into bondage to traffickers by relatives. Victims of trafficking ranged from those who were deceived into believing that they would have good and respectable employment to those who expected to work as prostitutes but were unprepared for the degree of violence and exploitation to which they would be subjected. Unaccompanied young women trying to cross the border into Macedonia, Romania, or Turkey reportedly could be at some risk of being abducted into trafficking. There were reports of women or girls who were denied access into Turkey for lack of a visa or means to pay for one being befriended by traffickers or abducted by taxi drivers at the border and sold to traffickers. Organized crime groups were responsible for human trafficking, although they could use various front companies to pose as employment agencies or tour operators.

The process of transforming girls into prostitutes generally took place before they left the country. The women typically were taken to a large town, isolated, beaten, and subjected to severe physical and psychological torture. Some trafficking victims from countries to the east were kept in the country for several weeks where they were subjected to psychological and physical abuse to make them more submissive before they were transported to their destination points. Once the women left the country, their identity documents were taken away, and they found themselves forced to work as prostitutes in cities across Europe. Victims routinely reported that traffickers took away their passports and visas and forced them to stay illegally in countries. The women were required to pay back heavy financial debts to the agency that helped them depart the country, leaving them in virtual indentured servitude. Traffickers punished women severely for acts of disobedience and threatened the women's families and family reputations to ensure obedience.

It was widely believed that some law enforcement officers or other government authorities were complicit in human trafficking, including local authorities, border police officers, and customs officials. The bulk of involvement appeared to consist of accepting bribes to look the other way, although some officers could have been more involved. Those involved in facilitating trafficking overwhelmingly were low-level, low-paid officials in the provinces and border regions. While in principle the Government took the problem of trafficking seriously, in practice it used ineffective methods and had a weak record in investigating and prosecuting corruption or misconduct in the police.

The Government did not have a witness protection program, and witnesses often feared retaliation if they testified. The Government had a provision for victims to provide an anonymous sworn deposition to be used in court, but an anonymous deposition was required to be corroborated to obtain a conviction. Victims generally were not jailed, although they could be detained for brief periods for questioning until referred to an NGO for assistance and repatriation. Victims who were not in legal immigration status and who did not accept voluntary NGO-assisted repatriation were deported.

The Government did not assist victims of trafficking who returned to the country, and there were few social benefits for such victims. Many victims of trafficking and forced prostitution were too young to have worked previously, which disqualified them from receiving social security assistance. If victims were runaways with no registered address, they were ineligible for humanitarian assistance. Many victims also largely were ineligible for government assistance programs, most of which were in some way tied to previous employment status. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) assisted victims in meeting short-term needs and arranged for repatriation to the victim's home country.

Prevailing public attitudes often stigmatized victims, although there were some signs that this could be changing slowly. The AAF operated a 24-hour hot line for women in crisis, including victims of trafficking, with trained volunteers as well as professional therapists to counsel victims. The hot line also provided volunteers to assist victims in obtaining other necessary services including medical exams and treatment, reissued identity documents, and information on housing and employment opportunities. The AAF also operated a short-term emergency shelter for women and children who were victims of violence.

The Government did not operate any trafficking prevention programs. The IOM continued its trafficking awareness campaign that began in 2000. However, during the year, the IOM stated that the Ministry of Education did not cooperate fully in its effort to institutionalize awareness programs for teenagers in classrooms.

 

DRUG TRAFFICKING

Bulgaria, centrally located on the Balkan Route, remains an important transit route between Turkey and Western Europe for Southwest Asian heroin and Southeast Asian marijuana. Bulgarian authorities seized important quantities of South American cocaine in 1998, and the heroin-essential chemical acetic anhydride en route to Turkey. Bulgaria cultivates very small amounts of cannabis. Bulgaria is a party to the 1988 UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. In 1998, the Bulgarian Government enacted a new money laundering law aimed at strengthening the existing 1996 law, and is drafting other criminal laws which will support the law against narcotics. These include a drugs and precursors control act, which is now being coordinated among ministries. The Bulgarian Government also stepped up regional counter-narcotics cooperation, and continues to require schools to offer a demand reduction program. Law enforcement authorities cooperated actively with U.S. and third-country counterparts on counternarcotics cases and issues.

Bulgaria is a significant drug-transit country centrally located on three traditional Balkan Routes between Turkey and, respectively, Serbia, Romania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The main illegal drug transiting Bulgaria is heroin from the Golden Crescent and South Asian sources, though marijuana and cocaine also transit Bulgaria. The Northern Balkan Route from Turkey through Bulgaria to Romania is the most frequently used overland route, though there are others through Serbia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The precursor chemical acetic anhydride, possibly produced in Bulgaria or coming from Macedonia, is transported from or through Bulgaria to Turkey. In 1998, cocaine seizures were up and heroin seroin seizures were down.

Small quantities of opium poppies and cannabis are grown in Bulgaria. Clandestine labs produce amphetamines, and diverted acetic anhydride is transported from Bulgaria to Turkey. In 1998, Bulgarian authorities found and eradicated 34.6 ha of cannabis, up from 21 ha in 1997 and 8.3 ha in 1996. However, law enforcement officials do not routinely calculate crop size or yields for illegal narcotics crops. When necessary, case-specific determination is made based on the weight of dry leaves yielded from one square meter times the dimensions of the field. In general, yield calculations for illegal narcotics crops are difficult because it is not unusual, for example, to find cannabis hidden in a field of maize.

The drug abuse problem in Bulgaria is small but growing. In this country of 8.3 million, government experts estimate that, there are 40,000-50,000 heroin users. Although they disagree on the exact number, they agree that the number is increasing. Fewer than ten percent of users are in treatment. Cocaine is too expensive for all but the wealthy. Marijuana has traditionally been used in rural areas. "Ecstasy" is an important and growing problem in universities. Increases in drug consumption have been particularly noteworthy among the marginalized Roma population, among whom glue sniffing is a problem, as well as in prisons, in some localized geographic areas and among traffickers.

For at least the last few years, demand reduction has been receiving increased attention in Bulgaria. The Ministry of Education requires the teaching in schools nationwide of health promotion modules on substance abuse. There is also a WHO program for health promotion in 30 target schools. The Bulgarian National Center for Addictions provides training seminars on drug abuse for school teachers nationwide. There are also municipal demand reduction programs co-sponsored by the National Center for Addictions and the Institute of Public Health in six major cities and a number of smaller communities. Three universities provide professional training in drug prevention or drug treatment.

There has been no change in the number of major treatment units: 35 outpatient units and ten-twelve inpatient facilities nationwide. The National Center for Addictions has psychiatric units in 20 regional centers. Specialized professional training in drug treatment and demand reduction has been provided through programs sponsored by UNDCP, EU-PHARE and the Council of Europe's Pompidou Group.

Backed by a President of the same party, the Bulgarian Government has made combating administrative corruption and organized crime policy priorities since it came to power in May 1997. Measures introduced by the Government include wide-reaching anti-crime legislation. A new money laundering law passed in July 1998.

Complying with its obligations under the 1988 UN Drug Convention, in 1998 Bulgaria drew up a new drug law ("Drugs and Precursors Control Act"), which it hopes to have in force by early 1999. Further, an inter-ministerial council is working to establish a new counternarcotics strategy for the next three-year period. Within the National Service for Combating Organized Crime, which places a heavy emphasis on counternarcotics, restructuring will allow four separate teams of enforcement officers and analysts to target: general problems of drug production, trading and distribution; developments in heroin trafficking along the Balkan Route(s) through Bulgaria; cocaine; and cannabis and synthetic drugs.

There is a renewed emphasis, among the criminal police, on street distribution and blocking of sales at schools, youth associations, and other sites targeted by traffickers. A money laundering bill, drafted with U.S. Department of Treasury advice, entered into effect in October 1998 and will serve to strengthen the counternarcotics effort. Finally, assistance from the European Union's PHARE program will allow several government agencies to improve their efforts.

Significant accomplishments in 1998 included drawing up a national narcotics strategy and the new, tougher drug law. PHARE cooperation, regional agreements and agreements with Western European states have widened the resources available to Bulgarian law enforcement agencies.

In 1998, Bulgaria continued its successful interdiction efforts, measured inter alia by the number of seizures and quantity of drugs seized (including a 600 kilogram cocaine seizure at the Black Sea port of Varna). The number of seizures of illegal narcotics at border posts increased slightly to 35 (11 months), with cocaine seizures up sharply (to 7 in 1998 from 2 in 1997). However, heroin remains the drug most often seized. Heroin quantities seized diminished in 1998 (11 months) to 158 kilograms from 311.6 kilograms in 1997; the quantities of tablets seized increased from 11,900 in 1997 to 62,000 in 1998. Seizures at internal points paralleled those at ports of entry, except that marijuana seizures were more important both quantitatively and relatively. In 1998, Bulgarian authorities seized 752.7 kilograms of marijuana (compared with 214.6 kilograms in 1997 and 547.0 kilograms in 1996). Bulgarian authorities destroyed three illicit laboratories in 1998, compared with 2 in 1997 and arrested 232 persons, compared with 151 in 1997 and 80 in 1996.

Law enforcement agencies have focused on the fight against organized crime and its trafficking component and, despite stringent budget limitations, have funded hiring of new counternarcotics analysts to gather and interpret intelligence. Law enforcement agencies have taken more aggressive action to control laboratories and the use/production of precursors. The common complaint however, is that financial resources for counternarcotics programs remain inadequate.

Despite improvements in 1997 and 1998, corruption continues to be widespread in Bulgaria, including among police and customs officials. The USG, however, has no specific information that senior Bulgarian Government officials are involved in drug trafficking or other narcotics-related crimes. The Government, in place since May 1997, has made the fight against organized crime and corruption major priorities in its program, and is pressing forward with an extensive legislative reform effort strengthening anti-crime legislation.

Bulgaria is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the 1961 UN Single Convention and its 1972 Protocol, the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1990 Council of Europe Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of Proceeds from Crime. The US/Bulgarian Extradition Treaty dates from 1924. Bulgaria is also party to the 1957 Council of Europe Convention on Extradition, the 1959 European Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in Penal Measures, and the 1983 Council of Europe Convention on Transfer of Sentenced Persons. It also has a bilateral treaty with Turkey for transfer of convicted persons. Bulgarian Customs has memorandums of understanding on mutual assistance and cooperation with several European counterparts and is negotiating or updating others.

Bilateral cooperation between U.S. and Bulgarian law enforcement officials has remained excellent, aided by the formation of a bilateral Law Enforcement Working Group in 1998 to improve cooperation and coordination in providing assistance to Bulgarian law enforcement agencies. U.S. bilateral assistance has focused on border control, including a land border interdiction course offered by the U.S. Customs Service. As well, Bulgarian law enforcement officials received FBI training in auto theft investigations, ILEA mid-level police training and a USSS course in financial fraud that included a DEA component on narcotics-related money laundering. Through the INL-funded program, the USG has also provided advisory assistance to the Bulgarian Government in the drafting of money laundering legislation and reform of the penal code and procedural penal code.

The USG will continue to promote increased Bulgarian Government attention to the problems of narcotics trafficking and money laundering; support Bulgarian law enforcement and anti-crime legislative reform efforts; and encourage further cooperation between Bulgarian and U.S. law enforcement agencies, including DEA, the FBI and Customs. It will work with the Bulgarian Government, in the bilateral working group context, to identify law enforcement training, advisory and equipment needs, and to provide limited assistance to meet those needs. The USG will also promote counternarcotics cooperation with regional and western European countries, and encourage western European assistance and UNDCP support for Bulgarian law enforcement authorities.

Major European transshipment point for Southwest Asian heroin and, to a lesser degree, South American cocaine for the European market; limited producer of precursor chemicals

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Internet research assisted by Janine Mendelssohn

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