International Case Law

P.M. v. Bulgaria European Court of Human Rights (2012)

Sexual violence and rape

The applicant was raped at a party in 1991 when she was 13 years old. Her parents informed the police. The criminal proceeding started twice but were both terminated. At the third time of reopening the investigation, both people accused were convicted guilty by the court but relieved due to the expired limitation period. The European Court of Human Rights held that the case was admissible and that the authorities led the investigation ineffectively and slowly, which caused the expired limitation period. There was a violation of Article 3, prohibition of torture, of the Convention for Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

Jallow v. Bulgaria CEDAW Committee (2012)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Gender discrimination

J moved from the Gambia to Bulgaria after marrying A.P., a Bulgarian national. Once in Bulgaria, A.P. subjected J to physical and psychological violence, including sexual abuse, and attempted to force her to take part in pornographic films and photographs. He also abused their daughter, M.A.P. A.P. called the Child Protection Department to stop J from breastfeeding M.A.P, during which onsite visit the social workers learned of A.P’s abuse, called the police and advised J to seek refuge but provided no guidance about where or how to do so. J found refuge for several days in an NGO-run shelter, but A.P. later found her and forced her to return to the family home. Prosecutors refused to continue investigating the alleged domestic violence due to insufficient evidence. At no time did the authorities interview J. Later, A.P. filed an application with the Sofia Regional Court alleging him being a victim of domestic violence and requesting an emergency protection order. The Court granted the order, along with temporary custody of M.A.P, based solely on his statement and without consideration of the alleged domestic violence he committed against J. Authorities did not provide J with information about M.A.P’s whereabouts or her condition, despite repeated requests. The Court dismissed A.P.’s application for a permanent protection order but the emergency order remained effective. J later agreed to a divorce, including to numerous unfavorable conditions, to regain her custody of the daughter. J submitted a communication before the CmEDAW on behalf of M.A.P. and herself alleging violations by Bulgaria of Articles 1, 2, 3, 5 and 16 (1)(c), 16(1)(d), 16(1)(f) and 16(1)(g) of CEDAW by failing to provide effective protection against domestic violence and sanction A.P. for his behavior, to consider domestic violence as a real and serious threat, to adopt effective measures to address gender-based violence against women, gender discrimination and to provide illiterate migrant woman as herself to access justice. The Committee upheld all her claims, urged Bulgaria to compensate J and M.A.P, and recommended that the State Party adopt measures to ensure that women victims of domestic violence, including migrant women, have effective access to justice and other services. It also called on the State Party to provide regular training on CEDAW and the Optional Protocol and to adopt legislative and other measures to ensure that domestic violence is taken into account in determining custody and visitation rights of children.

Bevacqua and S. v. Bulgaria European Court of Human Rights (2008)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Domestic and intimate partner violence

Following divorce and during extended custody proceedings in Bulgaria, B agreed to the father having contact with the child, S. However, he refused B’s contact with S. B recovered S from the kindergarten, which led to the father threatening her and eventually entering her home seeking to recover the child. B moved to a hostel for victims of domestic violence in another town, but the authorities threatened to prosecute her for abduction of S. Despite being asked by B to make an interim order concerning custody of S, the Bulgarian courts failed to do so. In order to avoid prosecution B agreed to care for S with the father in alternate months. S was subject to further violence by the father. She was granted custody of the child eventually, but the father was not prosecuted for his violence, or for subsequent violence against her. The ECtHR found violations of B and S’ right to respect for private and family life under Art 8 of the ECHR. The Court held that the Bulgarian court's failure to adopt interim custody measures without delay had adversely affected the well-being of S and insufficient measures had been taken in reaction to the father's behavior, however, the length of proceedings had not been unreasonable.

S. V. P. v. Bulgaria CEDAW Committee (2012)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

S filed a complaint on behalf of her seven-year-old daughter, V, who was sexually assaulted by a neighbor. The perpetrator, B, was indicted for sexual molestation, at which time, was not a ‘serious crime’ under the State’s criminal code and thus permitted B to enter into a plea-bargain agreement under which he admitted guilt and received a three-year suspended sentence. S brought a civil tort claim on behalf of V as she was not permitted to bring a civil claim against B in connection with B’s prosecution and received a judgment of approximately EUR 15,000 for moral damages two years later. The law did not provide for a state actor to enforce the judgment, and S was only able to collect approximately EUR 500 from B. B continued to live in the vicinity of V’s home, and she repeatedly expressed fear of further harm from him. After the assault, V was diagnosed as a person with disability. S brought a communication before the CEDAW alleging violations by Bulgaria of Articles 1, 2(a), (b), (c), (e), (f) and (g), 3, 5, 12 and 15 of CEDAW by failing to effectively protect V against sexual violence and compensation, to ensure V’s rights to health, including reproductive health and education, to provide V with proper rehabilitative services, and to guarantee V’s right against re-victimization by B. The Committee upheld all of S’s claims, ordered the State to provide V with appropriate reparations and addressed the State to adopt specified changes to State laws, including amendments to provide effective protection from re-victimization and to provide appropriate support and financial compensation to victims, and enact new policies, including health care protocols and hospital procedures, to address sexual violence against women and girls.

V.K. v. Bulgaria CEDAW Committee (2011)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Domestic and intimate partner violence, Gender discrimination

Ms. V.K., a Bulgarian citizen residing in Poland, sought to obtain a divorce from her husband after years of physical, emotional and economic abuse. Following a series of incidents in which her husband physically abused and intimidated both mother and children, Ms. V.K. took her children and left Poland for Bulgaria in order to hide from her husband and to seek protection and support from her family and the State. Once in Bulgaria, Ms. V.K. filed an application pursuant to the State’s Law on Protection against Domestic Violence, asking for an immediate protection order against her husband, invoking the Convention (CEDAW) and other human rights treaties. The District Court issued the order for immediate protection, but rejected Ms. V.K.’s application for a permanent protection order. On appeal, the Regional Court upheld the decision of the District Court. After exhausting all available domestic remedies, Ms. V.K. lodged a complaint with the CEDAW Committee alleging that the State had failed to provide her with effective protection against domestic violence, in violation of the Convention. She further claimed that the absence of a special law regarding the equality of women and men in the State, and the lack of recognition of violence against women as a form of discrimination, interfered with her human rights. Upon consideration, the Committee found that the refusal of the State’s courts to issue a permanent protection order against Ms. V.K.’s husband, along with the unavailability of shelters for battered women, violated the State’s obligation to effectively protect her against domestic violence. The Committee further concluded that the refusal of the State’s courts to issue a permanent protection order against Ms. V.K.’s husband was based on discriminatory notions of what constitutes domestic violence.

M.C. v. Bulgaria European Court of Human Rights (2003)

Sexual violence and rape

The victim, a 14-year old, alleged she was raped by two men, but an ensuing investigation found insufficient evidence of the girl having been compelled to have sex. The investigation found that force was not used and that therefore rape had not occurred. Before the ECHR, therefore, the victim alleged that Bulgarian law failed to protect her because it required force to be present for rape to have occurred, a higher standard than in other countries, where for example, only non-consent was necessary. She also challenged the thoroughness of the investigation. The ECHR found that Bulgaria violated its positive obligations under Articles 3 and 8 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. It ordered Bulgaria to pay the victim non-pecuniary damages and costs.