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Bulgaria: Ratification of Disabilities Convention

(Feb. 27, 2012) On January 26, 2012, the Bulgarian National Assembly unanimously ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Bulgaria had signed the Convention on September 27, 2007, and the Optional Protocol on December 18, 2008. The National Assembly chose not to include the Protocol in the ratification process, however. The Minister of Labor and Social Policy stated that in six months he would propose to the country's Council of Ministers (Cabinet) a two-year plan for implementation of the Convention in Bulgaria. (Bulgarian Parliament Ratifies Unanimously the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria website (Jan. 26, 2012).)

The Convention was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on December 13, 2006, opened for signature on March 30, 2007, and entered into force on May 3, 2008. (Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, United Nations website (last visited Feb. 24, 2012); G.A. Res. 61/106, U.N. Doc. A/RES/61/106 (Jan. 24, 2007).) According to the United Nations Enable website, as of January 30, 2012, with the Convention's ratification by Mozambique, 110 jurisdictions had ratified the Convention and 63 had ratified its Protocol, while there were 153 Convention signatories and 90 Protocol signatories. The United States has signed the Convention but has not yet ratified it. (Convention and Optional Protocol Signatures and Ratifications, UNITED NATIONS ENABLE (last visited Feb. 24, 2012).) The United Nations Enable website is self-described as “the official website of the Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (SCRPD) in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) at the United Nations Secretariat.” (United Nations Enable, UNITED NATIONS ENABLE (last visited Feb. 24, 2012).)

Bulgaria recently lost a case before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Stanev v. Bulgaria (Application No. 36760/06), in connection with the Convention. Plaintiff Rusi Kosev Stanev “contested the living conditions of state-run facilities for disabled people, as well as a lack of rights for challenging diagnoses and placement.” (Sung Un Kim, Bulgaria to Ratify UN Disabilities Treaty, PAPER CHASE NEWSBURST (Dec. 25, 2011); Case of Stanev v. Bulgaria (Jan. 17, 2012), ECHR website.)

Stanev, who stated that he had been “forced to live for years in an unsanitary and dilapidated psychiatric institution with inadequate food and heating and no activities for residents,” argued before the ECHR that a number of his rights, which should be guaranteed under the Convention, including the ability to have his legal capacity restored or reexamined by a court, had been violated. (Press Release, ECHR, Bulgaria Breached Human Rights of Man Forced to Live for Years in Inhuman Conditions in Psychiatric Institution (Jan. 17, 2012).) Stanev had been found by Bulgarian courts to be partially incapacitated on the grounds that he suffered from schizophrenia and was placed in the facility at the request of his guardian in 2002. (Id.)

The ECHR unanimously held, in a decision issued on January 17, 2012, that the following articles of the Convention had been violated in the Stanev case: article 5 § 1(right to liberty and security); article5 § 4(concerning the impossibility of the plaintiff's bringing proceedings to have a court decide on the lawfulness of his detention); article 5 § 5, (concerning the impossibility of the plaintiff's applying for compensation for illegal detention and the lack of review by a court of the lawfulness of his detention); article 3 (prohibition of degrading treatment); article 13 (right to an effective remedy, concerning the impossibility for the plaintiff to apply for compensation regarding the degrading living conditions); and article 6 § 1 (right to a fair hearing),in that he was denied access to a court to seek restoration of his legal capacity. (Id.; Case of Stanev v. Bulgaria, supra.)

National Assembly Member Svetlana Angelova pledged that after the Convention was ratified, all laws in Bulgaria, including the penal code, would be amended to bring them into compliance with the treaty. (Kim, supra.)