Democracy can not be achieved with police methods: statement of Center Amalipe

Amalipe Center expresses its indignation at the police operation held on November 5 at the home of the parents of the candidate for MP Lalo Kamenov in the town of Lom. We are also concerned about the manner in which many similar actions are being conducted in the Roma neighborhoods of Ruse, Burgas, Varna, Plovdiv and a number of other cities and towns. Although conducted under the pretext of preventing vote buying, most of these police activities are accompanied by unnecessary ostentation and force, in many cases violating the rights of children and the elderly people in the Roma community. In its cumulative nature, the series of actions in Roma neighborhoods just before the elections further reinforces the prevailing prejudice among the general public that vote buying occurs primarily in the Roma community and that the majority of Roma vote against pay – a stereotype that does not meet reality. Showiness and excessive force will have a negative effect on voter turnout in Roma / minority neighborhoods.

On November 5, police in Lom raided the home of the parents of the candidate for MP Lalo Kamenov – without reason, without a search warrant, without witnesses, in a brutal manner, which led to further deterioration of the already deteriorating health of his elderly parents. without providing them with additional medical assistance.

Lalo Kamenov is one of the long-standing Roma activists who has never concealed his Roma identity and his desire to protect the rights of the Roma community in Bulgaria. He has graduated from Pedagogy. Over the years he has been a teacher, director of a kindergarten, deputy mayor of Lom Municipality, expert in the administration of the Council of Ministers, deputy chairman of the Commission for Protection against Discrimination, expert in the Ministry of Education and Science. He is currently the Executive Director of the Center for Educational Integration of Children and Students from Ethnic Minorities, a structure of the Ministry of Education and Science. Undoubtedly, the real reason for the action at his parents’ home is that he is a candidate for MP from Democratic Bulgaria (Coalition, which is represented in parliament and one of the main political forces running in the November 14 parliamentary elections). For people who know Lalo Kamenov, there is no doubt that he and his family do not participate in vote trading schemes and the application of such “militia” methods is unacceptable. Also very disturbing is the lack of reaction from other political forces to this case of a show action.

In the last two weeks, in many Roma neighborhoods, the Interior Ministry has been campaigning against vote buying. The unnecessary demonstration of force is impressive, as the homes of the suspects are entered after breaking down doors, in front of children and the elderly. In many cases, we can talk about the violation of the rights of the child and a number of other rights. Carrying out these actions, above all in the Roma neighborhoods, further strengthens the stereotypes and prejudices towards the Roma and further stigmatizes the community.

It is striking to anyone following the election process in Bulgaria that in all three parliamentary elections in 2021, the main political forces do not include Roma in eligible seats in their lists. This is happening despite the fact that Bulgaria is among the countries with the highest percentage of Roma population and despite the fact that the educational status of Roma has improved significantly in recent years. The lack of Roma in eligible positions, combined with police campaigns in Roma neighborhoods, will certainly lead to lower voter turnout and further alienation from the electoral process in the Roma community. The latter is a serious challenge to the democratic process and the functioning of the Bulgarian political system, which already enjoys the distrust of a large percentage of Bulgarian citizens.

We call on all political formations participating in the upcoming elections to clearly and categorically condemn the use of inadmissible methods of intimidation, stigmatization of the Roma community and discouragement of those who have declared active citizenship from participating in the upcoming elections!

We call on the law enforcement authorities to refrain from the unnecessary use of force, to strictly respect the rights of children and citizens and through their actions not to contribute to the growth of anti-Roma discrimination and stigmatization of the Roma community!

We call on the Commission for Protection against Discrimination, the National Ombudsman and the Bulgarian Prosecutor’s Office to self-refer all cases of violation of civil and political rights as described above!