Legal Defence Programme

Since its establishment in 1995, advocacy before domestic and international courts in cases of human rights violations has been a main component of the BHC Legal Defence Programme. The Legal Defence Programme has pioneered various legal victories in fields like civil claims against the police; decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and the Committee of Ministers of the CoE, the International Labour Organisation, etc. The programme's strategic litigation aims to bring Bulgarian legislation in line with international standards and to stimulate a better understanding of human rights standards among practising lawyers. The programme also prepares amicus curiae briefs before the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Bulgaria (available in Bulgarian only) in cases which pose human rights problems.

Anti-discrimination Programme

The Anti-discrimination Programme operates within the Legal Defense Programme. Its main task is to file strategic addressing discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, sex, disability, and age. The programme is involved in pro bono litigation before the domestic and international courts, media advocacy, consultations on anti-discrimination issues, and provides training to legal practitioners on anti-discrimination law.

Another activity in the framework of the project was connected with the process of advocacy for the adoption of the Protection from Discrimination Act and activities for its popularisation. At the end of 2002 a coalition of 5 organisations was formed, later expanded to 37 organisations of ethnic and religious minorities, women's rights groups, organisations of people with disabilities and of consumers, organisations of sexual minorities, that supported the draft anti-discrimination act.

Project "AdvocAcy and Litigation on Behalf of People with Mental Disabilities" 

The project is carried out together with Mental Disability Advocacy Center, Budapest

The project for human rights litigation on behalf of people with mental disabilities was launched in 2005 at the initiative of the Mental Disability Advocacy Center, Budapest. MDAC is a Budapest-based international non-governmental organization, whicha advances the human rights of children and adults with actual or perceived intellectual or psycho-social disabilities in Europe and Central Asia.

A legal consultant identifies and files lawsuits for the protection of the human rights of individuals with mental disabilities in the spheres of right to life, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment, detention, right to personal life, guardianship, right to healthcare, right to education and others.

The legal consultant represents victims of human rights violations before national and international courts, makes analyses of domestic and international legislation and provides recommendations for law reform, works with peer-advocacy organisations, provides training to users of psychiatry groups for self-advocacy.

Requests for legal aid

In certain cases, the Legal Defence Programme can provide legal aid if it is considered that basic human rights and fundamental freedoms are violated. The aid is free-of-charge and it consists of legal counselling and/or procedural representation before the domestic courts and the ECtHR in the following cases: - excessive use of force by law enforcement officials;
- human rights violations in the closed institutions;
- restrictions of the freedom of expression;
- restrictions of the right to profess a religion;
- restrictions of the right of peaceful assembly;
- restrictions of the right to a fair trial;
- unlawful discrimination;
- restrictions of the right of a fair trial.

Please, send your written questions addressed to P.O. Box 146, 1504 Sofia or to the electronic address of the BHC Legal Defense Programme, legal (at) bghelsinki.org. Only copies of the relevant documents are accepted. Please, specify if you would like to receive the copies of these documents back. You will receive written notification if the BHC will be in a position to provide legal aid within 30 days.

Due to the extremely high number of requests for legal aid, the Legal Defence Programme is not able to provide such in all cases. The Programme does not grant legal help and does not take up a position in the following cases:
- property or restitution disputes;
- social accommodation;
- pensions or any other social benefits;
- labour disputes;
- disputes about rent contracts or any other contractual rights.