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Advance questions and statement to Bulgaria

Advance questions

  1. Norway commends Bulgaria’s effort to reform the justice sector. What is the timeline for implementing in practice the Updated Strategy for continuing the reform of the judiciary, adopted 21st of January 2015?
  2. Freedom of press is essential in any democracy. We are concerned that the ownership of Bulgarian media is not transparent enough and that this is detrimental to press freedom. What measures does the Government take to secure true freedom of the media and to promote diversification of media ownership?
  3. The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture recently published a critical report and a public statement on the poor conditions in prisons and detention centers in Bulgaria. What steps has the government taken to follow up the report?
  4. Many violent attacks targeting ethnic and religious minorities, including Roma, migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, were reported by the media and NGOs lately. Does the Government have effective mechanisms to prevent and investigate acts of hate crime?

Statement

Norway welcomes the delegation of Bulgaria and the presentation of the National Report.

Over the last years, Bulgaria has ratified a number of treaties, made important amendments to the legislation and adopted new strategies related to human rights. Norway welcomes these efforts, but several concerns remain.

Norway would like to make the following recommendations to Bulgaria:

Firstly, Norway recommends that further measures be taken to combat ill-treatment of prisoners and detainees by the police, including improved police training, intensified courses on practical aspects of police ethics and specialised courses on hate crime investigation.

Secondly, Norway recommends that Bulgaria guarantee a safe and independent working environment for journalists and promote transparency and diversity in the media ownership. Harassment, threats and wiretapping of investigating journalists, bloggers and NGO representatives should be countered.

Finally, we commend Bulgaria for reducing the numbers of school drop-outs among Roma children. Keeping Roma children in school is one of the most important measures to prevent social exclusion. We recommend the Government to make steps towards more sustainable reduction of school dropouts.

Norway would also like to reiterate the recommendation from 2010 to Bulgaria to establish a Children’s Ombudsman, to safeguard, protect and promote the rights of children and young people.