The chairman of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC), the largest organization for the protection of human rights in Bulgaria, was attacked this morning around 9:30 am by two unknown men in front of the Radisson hotel in Sofia. Krassimir Kanev was hit in the face and stomach, after which his attackers fled down Tsar Shishman Street. Police was called on the site after the incident. Kanev sustained minor injuries.
BHC strongly condemns the attack on its chairperson and calls on the authorities to take immediate actions to identify the perpetrators, including obtaining records from security cameras at the scene as soon as possible.
BHC stands against any form of violence. Over the years, staff members have been repeatedly harassed and threatened because of their work in defence of human rights in Bulgaria, but until now there have not been any cases of physical assault.
For the last several years, speech inciting hate or violence against vulnerable minorities has been allowed, approved and even praised in Bulgaria. We are deeply troubled by this trend. Aggression is also directed towards the few organizations and activists who take on the task to defend vulnerable persons. Hate speech is increasingly prevalent in public speaking through the media, which often give an uncritical platform to racist, xenophobic and homophobic views and anti-minority activists. Bulgarian authorities, on the other hand, do not seem able to deal with the timely and effective investigation of hate crimes, and in some cases their representatives even encourage crimes like the one today. ♦