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Minnesota Advocates Concludes Fact-Finding Mission to Bulgaria (July 2007)
8/7/2007 10:27 AM

The Women’s Human Rights Program successfully completed a two-week mission to Bulgaria to monitor implementation of the Law on Protection against Domestic Violence. Since the law passed in March 2005, Minnesota Advocates has worked with its longtime partner, the Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation (BGRF), to train police and judges on the implementation of the law. Minnesota Advocates is currently working with BGRF to document the challenges and successes of the law’s implementation and to make recommendations to improve the government’s response.

From July 3-18, staff attorneys Mary Ellingen and Rosalyn Park visited six cities in Bulgaria, including Sofia, Plovdiv, Pleven, Ruse, Varna and Burgas, accompanied by lawyers from BGRF. The team conducted thirty interviews with lawyers, judges, police, prosecutors, and NGO representatives. The team observed many positive things happening throughout the country, including more effective assistance to victims of domestic violence where there is a strong NGO presence and a coordinated community response is in place. For example, police in one city described their plans to establish a center for police and NGOs to jointly address prevention and to provide consultations to victims, replicating an already successful model in Sofia.

There is still a need, however, for greater public awareness and use of the law. In addition, NGOs in Bulgaria need greater resources, and there is a severe lack of shelters. Furthermore, the law currently requires that the application for a protection order be filed within thirty thirty days of the domestic violence act, thus posing obstacles to victims seeking protection. Also, interviewees stressed the need for legislative changes that would criminalize violations of protection orders and increase criminal penalties for acts of domestic violence. Based on these and on earlier findings, Minnesota Advocates will publish its conclusions and recommendations in a report this fall.