Amnesty International Demands Probe of Police Brutality during Sofia Protest

Domestic | August 2, 2013, Friday // 10:29|  views

International human rights NGO Amnesty International has sent a letter to Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetlin Yovchev, insisting that an in-depth investigation be made into allegations of excessive use of police force against anti-government protesters in Sofia on July 23.

On July 23, the 40th day of anti-government demonstrations in Bulgaria, a crowd of protesters organized a blockade of Parliament, making it impossible for 109 lawmakers, current and former ministers and journalists, to leave the building.

Police tried to get the officials out by bus, but the demonstrators started throwing bottles and stones at the vehicle, thereby preventing it from leaving.

The politicians were safely escorted out of the building at 3:30 am on July 24.

In a media statement published late on Thursday on its website, Amnesty International informs that the letter has also been sent to Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov.

The NGO urges Bulgarian authorities to conduct a "prompt, independent, thorough and effective investigation into all such allegations, and to bring anyone responsible for human rights violations to justice."

"According to media reports and the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC), an NGO monitoring the protests, on 23 July at around 10.00 pm the police attempted to evacuate the 100 ministers and MPs who were being prevented from leaving the Parliament building by the protesters. During the operation, the police officers allegedly beat protesters indiscriminately, without being provoked or attacked by protesters,"Amnesty International states.

"BHC monitors present at the protests have stated that the police issued no warning or prior request to protesters to make space for officials wishing to leave the Parliament building. While 17 people have been injured and reportedly sought medical help at hospitals, according to the BHC, dozens other people are reported to have been hit and pushed around by police officers,"the human rights organization notes.

Amnesty International also draws attention to the fact that Reporters without Borders reported attacks against five journalists by police officers.

"One of them was reportedly brought to the ground with kicks while filming violence by police officers and suffered serious injuries and internal bleeding. The other reporters were either hit in the torso and in the head, with batons and truncheons. In three cases, journalists reported that the police either destroyed or confiscated their equipment," the NGO declares.

Amnesty International reiterates calls for comprehensive and independent investigations into the events on July 23, reminding Bulgarian authorities that "under international human rights law, the use of force by the police must be proportionate, lawful and necessary."

"Amnesty International also calls on the Bulgarian authorities to ensure that, in the context of the continuing protests in Sofia, the policing of demonstrations complies at all times with their international human rights law obligations and with international standards on policing, including the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials," the NGO concludes.

The series of protests in Bulgaria started on June 14 in response to the election of controversial media tycoon Delyan Peevski as a head of the State Agency for National Security (DANS).

Although the appointment was cancelled, the move did not appease public discontent and the people went on to demand the resignation of the socialist-led government of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski over ties with oligarchs, as well as early elections.

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Tags: Amnesty International, protests, anti-government, police brutality, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, BHC, Reporters without Borders, State Agency for National Security, DANS, Delyan Peevski


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