MINELRES: Bulgarian denomination law: MINELRES submission protested

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.delfi.lv
Sat Jan 11 19:04:41 2003

Dear MINELRES list members,

We are not able to double-check every submission we receive for the
list. We do, however, adhere to policies of openness and frank
discussion. A recent list submission on Bulgarian denomination law was
severely criticised by Mr. Emil Cohen, President of Tolerance Foundation
of Bulgaria, and by Mr. Krassimir Kanev, Director of Bulgarian Helsinki
Committee. We are grateful for active engagement in the list and submit
to your attention the abovementioned criticisms (see below for two

Original sender: Emil Cohen <emilcohen@mbox.cit.bg>

Dear Mr. Moderator: 

I just have received a letter written by a group titled 'Bulgarian
Religious Freedom Group'. It was disseminated by you. That letter
contains a description of the new Bulgarian Denominations Law. According
to the authors of the letter it is a very good law. I must say you that
according to the opinion of the leading HR groups such as Bulgarian
Helsinki Committee and Tolerance Foundation that law, in contrary, has
provisions that are in sharply contradiction with requirements of the
ECHR. It has been underlined in the analyses of the law, written by
Tolerance Foundation, Institute for the Principles of the Justice and
others. These analyses have been disseminated by your network also by
'Human Rights without Frontiers'. 

In Bulgaria 18 religious and HR groups have adopted protest against a
lot of provisions of that law. They have asked the President of the
republic not to sign that law. Unfortunately he had signed it and by
that way it has became an acting law. It is expected in the closest
future that the new law would be appealed before the Constitutional
Court of Bulgaria because of its contradictions with the Constitution. 

In the other hand that new group is an absolutely unknown for us and we
believe it is not a HR group because one real HR group would not protect
such a law. 

So that we ask you to be more careful and do not allow the name of one
of the most respected HR networks such as Minelres to be used for
dissemination of texts that are not with HR trend. 

Respectfully yours: 

Emil Cohen 

President of Tolerance Foundation


Original sender: Krassimir Kanev <krassimir@bghelsinki.org>

Dear Webmaster,
I came accross a press release distributed by Minelres by somebody who
calls himself "Bulgarian Religious Freedom Group" and whom I don't know.
It is on the religious denominations act, adopted recently by the
Bulgarian Parliament (with the votes, on the most restrictive parts, of
the National Movement Simeon II and the Bulgarian Socialist
(ex-Communist) Party). This is a restrictive and a discriminatory piece
of legislation. The press release however praises it as "a liberal one"
that "guarantees freedom of religion and belief" and offers reasons that
are not based on what law actually says and on false interpretations. As
a mater of fact, the pupose of the law is to re-unite the two factions
of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church that split in 1992 by outlawing one of
them and incorporating the other one (the synod of Maxim) that is closer
to the government by law and by eventual subsequent administrtative and
police repression. Thus it goes directly against the ruling of the
European Court of Human Rights on the case of Hasan and Chaush v
Bulgaria, Sherif v Greece et al. The law also provides for seperate
penalties for religious groups, imposed by a special governmental agency
(similar to the one we had under communism). Far from resolving the
current problems of church-state relations in Bulgaria, it is likely to
exacerbate them.
The Bulgarian Religious Freedom Group is apparently a new organisation
and the person who claims to represent it is unknown in the local human
rights community. I don't intend to censor Minelres but my experience
with the network so far did not suggest that this is a place where
anybody can place whatever crosses his/her mind.

Best regards,

Krassimir Kanev, Director, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee

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