Bulgarian Parliament Approves Controversial Anti-Terrorism Bill

On Thursday July 28, the National Assembly of Bulgaria (parliament) passed a controversial anti-terrorism bill, which was much criticized by the human rights organization for granting the government the power to bypass civil rights during cases of emergency.

The proposed bill passed on its first reading with 133 votes in favor, 5 against, and 14 MPs who abstained from voting.

Parliament of Bulgaria (Image by Plamen Agov/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Parliament of Bulgaria (Image by Plamen Agov/CC BY-SA 3.0)

According to the Bulgarian government, the proposed bill is a response to the surge of terrorist attacks across Europe. The Interior Minister of Bulgaria, Rumyana Bachvarova, noted while presenting the bill to the MPs, that the main aim of the bill is countering terrorism and protecting the fundamental rights of Bulgarian citizens.

However, a few MPs raised their concerns regarding the “special” powers that the bill grants to the government during cases of emergency; human rights organizations, including the Helsinki Committee, criticized the proposed bill as well, arguing that the bill has the potential to seriously harm the civil rights of the Bulgarian citizens.

The changes made by the new anti-terrorism bill revolve around granting more power to the armed and military forces of Bulgaria in the case of a terror attack.

The new anti-terrorism legislation enables Bulgarian authorities to use force against civilians who show resistance, or who refuse to obey law enforcement institutions during a terror attack.

The new bill also grants the rights to the authorities to restrict the movement of citizens during an emergency or while conducting an anti-terrorism operation; this implies the right of authorities to issue travel bans to Bulgarians.

According to the new bill, the Bulgarian authorities will have the right to keep personal communication data gathered during investigations and anti-terrorism operations for up to three years.

The bill also enables law enforcement agencies and institutions to enter private property, inspect personal belongings and ban access to the internet during anti-terrorism operations.

Dejan Scepanovic

Based in Bosnia and Herzegovina. BA in political science. Columnist.