The hatred according to the standard is not hatred
Decade Focal Point Bulgaria
In the beginning was the Word - this is a quotation from the Bible of which probably there is no man who has not heard. In the beginning it is always the Word, and after it – are the doings. In the contemporary world, mankind directs its efforts towards unity, common prosperity and equality in diversity. Smart growth, inclusive growth, sustainable growth and many other kinds of growth. Our word should be beneficial and constructive so that it brings us qualitative growth. But nowadays more and more often and as if inevitably we have to face the non-beneficial word –hate speech. Hate speech is like a sticky substance – if you use it once, you can’t get rid of it. Once stuck to you, you can’t remove it. The preparations of the laws do not help because they do not make an effort to wash the sticky substance called hate speech.
Hate speech turned into a modern phenomenon that causes slow and confused reactions of both the authorities and ordinary citizens with extraordinary consequences on thousands of lives around the world. Not because hate speech is not a crime and violation of human rights. Not because hate speech is not harmful and destructive. Not because it is not the last false weapon of the outsiders of the modern world. But because we are used to the hate speech and take it for truth. Because the institutions and citizens believe that hate speech is freedom of speech. Because hate speech does not directly affect our daily lives.
Institutions that should protect us from hate speech interpret it in their own unique way so that they can justify their inaction and defend the legal offences of given privileged persons mainly from the Bulgarian political and journalistic society. Even the prosecutor’s office that should raise charges for legal offences, makes serious attempts to justify its inaction and protect the offenders.
Examples of such case are the happenings around Katunitsa. “Anyone who propagates racial and ethnic hatred should be immediately arrested by the police who guard public events. Investigations should be started immediately for each signal, publication or public appearance which propagate ethnic and religious hatred. These cases should have priority and should be held in the shortest time", these are the instructions that the Chief Prosecutor Boris Velchev sent on the 27th of September 2011 to all prosecutor’s offices in the country after the syndrome called "Katunica" spread in all major cities of Bulgaria. Then Velchev reminded us that "propagating through speech, press and mass media of ethnic and religious hatred, incitement, hate speech and the exercise of violence against individuals or groups based on characteristics such as race, religion, ethnic origin” should be considered a crime.
At the same time, the Ataka political party distributed in the subway of Sofia city a brochure: The gipsy crime – danger for our country, together with flyers: Volen Siderov for president. On the 29th of September 2011, the petition sent from citizens and citizen organizations to the chief prosecutor Boris Velchev, requested Volen Siderov to be brought to justice under sec. 162 of the Criminal Code. Five months after the signal was sent, on the 29th of February 2012, prosecutor Nikolay Hristov wrote that after “joint discussion of the materials he resolves that the brochure does not contain information for performed indictable offence”.
“Ataka’s leader – Volen Siderov -focuses the attention of Bulgarian people over crimes performed by gypsies which is his own personal position for the criminal situation and political assessment of crime in Bulgaria. But it cannot be concluded that he aimed to propagate racial or ethnical hostility, or to incite hatred” – this is part of the arguments of the prosecutor Nikolay Hristov from the prosecutor’s office of Sofia with which he refuses to initiate legal proceedings against Ataka’s leader Volen Siderov.
Another similar case is “Kalin Rumenov”. In February 2012, a group of citizens sent a petition to the chief prosecutor of the Republic of Bulgaria with a copy to the Commission for Protection against Discrimination regarding a text of Kalin Rumenov full of hate speech: “I am hereby informing you for a probable rude and unprecedented corpus delicti act under the sense of sec. 162, par. 1 of the Criminal Code from a person, presenting himself with the name Kalin Rumenov (the Perpetrator). The corpus delicti act was probably done through distribution of text obviously propagating racial and ethnic hatred and racial discrimination – a crime under sec. 162, par. I in relation to sec. 20, par. II in relation to par. I of the Criminal Code. By means of mass media, in front of wide audience and in the condition of evident intent, the perpetrator published a copyright material with the title Ungrateful gypsy racists. In the article the author distributes text full of statements and declarations, as each one of them separately falls in the hypothesis of the acts incriminated by sec. 162 (1), and probably by other sections of Chapter Two and Chapter Three of the Criminal Code.”
After more than two years, on the 15th of April 2014, prosecutor V. Philipov from the District Prosecutor’s office of Sofia stated that: “During the investigation from the objective point it was undoubtedly found that the author of the material called Ungrateful gypsy racists is Kalin Rumenov Kolev – a journalist from Darik Radio and Novinar newspaper. Kalin Rumenov has accepted that the Bulgarian citizens of gypsy origin (who were present at the meeting) obviously have other understanding for “empowerment”, probably related to the claims of the representatives of the gypsy ethnos for official quota in the system of the three powers and the local administrations in the republic of Bulgaria. He felt bound by his oath as a conscript and reserve officer in the mobilization reserve to protect the integrity and independence of his country. In this case from a subjective point of view there is no propagation and incitement towards discrimination, violence or hatred, motivated by ethnic affiliation due to the above described reasons and motives of Kalin Rumenov and thus there is no corpus delicti act under sec. 162, par. 1 of the Criminal Code, because this is a case of a critical commentary material of a professional journalist on a specific issue. I hereby resolve to terminate the criminal procedure.”
The third similar case is that of Banya Basha Mosque. On the 20th of May, 2011, a few hundred Ataka members and sympathizers, led by Volen Siderov and other functionaries of the party aggressively demonstrated against the sound of the call to prayer. First the nationalists tried to drown the prayer with their own speakers and after that they continued with verbal and physical attacks on those praying. In Strasbourg there is initiated a legal proceeding after a complaint submitted by one of the Muslim victims- Veli Karaahmed, because the Bulgarian institutions refused to initiate legal proceedings. In the beginning of 2014, the Strasbourg Court decided to hear the case with priority, while in Bulgaria for three years the investigation has been carried out against an unknown perpetrator.
According to government agent Kristina Radkova, who made a statement to the European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”), “Karaahmed does not have the quality of a victim, and his complaint is inadmissible, unfounded and obviously unjustified. We consider that the behavior of the participants in the meeting, even though it should undoubtedly be blamed, has not passed the required minimum of rudeness, so as to lead to violation of the rights of the sender of the claim.” The last in the chain – the prosecutor’s office - on its behalf “refuses to constitute Mr. Karaahmed as a victim in the initiated pre-trial proceedings for propagating hatred because according to the Bulgarian doctrine this crime, which composition does not include result, has no victims. According to the sender of the claim this is not the only mistake of the Bulgarian authorities. The claim makes it clear that during the interrogation the investigator asked the victim questions such as: "Do you know whether you have the right to perform prayer outside the mosque?", "What body / institution gives you the right to do it?", "If you pretend that you protect human rights, do I have to turn to you for help because the gypsies are stealing my electricity? ". This is investigator Strahil Kamenichki.
The practice of the ECtHR continuous. The words of hatred are not protected by freedom of speech, guaranteed by sec. 10 of the European Convention, and the penalties on local level for the speakers of hatred are a must in a democratic society.
It is clear that due to political and other reasons the victims do not receive the adequate protection of which they are entitled according to the Bulgarian laws. They have no other choice but to demand their rights in the ECtHR in Strasbourg where our country is being condemned or to turn to external actors that can influence the decisions of the Bulgarian institutions. Of course, this has no influence on the judicial practice in Bulgaria in this field of law. On the contrary, the state pays the imposed sanctions and the responsible institutions continue to work adhering to models that are vicious and not in the citizens’ interests. According to the decisions of the prosecution, it appears that there should be consequences of hate speech - murders, pogroms, violence, etc. But isn’t it better for the prosecution and the court to act preventively? Or they only condemn in case of physical crime with clear evidence and consequences resulting from hate speech. And do we have to wait for someone to be killed, to say that it really results from hate speech? And what is the sense of this conclusion? Isn’t the sentence an opportunity for the convicted person to do better, or it is just a punishment for a crime in which someone already has lost his life?
If still there is anyone who hasn’t understood that hate speech is non-beneficial and without a perspective for the human development, he will definitely understand it when push comes to shove. And then in the beginning will not be the Word, because we will be deprived of it. Legally, as Hitler came to power – after elections.