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Bulgaria: Court rejects lawyer’s complaint against exposure as communist-era security service agent

A lawyer, exposed as an agent of Communist-era security services, has had his complaint against Bulgaria rejected by human rights judges.

In its decision in the case of Anchev v. Bulgaria (applications nos. 38334/08 and 68242/16) the European Court of Human Rights has unanimously declared the applications inadmissible. The decision is final.

First, the court found that the system chosen in Bulgaria for exposing those found to have been affiliated with the former security services was tightly circumscribed and surrounded by a number of safeguards. It had been chosen after 16 years of debate, passed by the legislature with cross-party support, and upheld by the Constitutional Court.

Moreover, the statutory scheme remained well within the bounds of the substantial room for manoeuvre to be given to ex-communist States in Eastern Europe in choosing how to deal with the legacy of undemocratic regimes.

Unlike in other ex-Communist states, the decisions to expose those who had been affiliated with the former security services are purely declaratory and do not entail sanctions such as banning people from office or disenfranchisement.

Nor did the scheme entail the kind of moral censure to be found under lustration schemes in place in other States.

The court was not certain either that exposure in Bulgaria carried the same kind of universal social stigma as in other States.

A number of public figures have been exposed since 2007, without serious social or financial consequences.

Indeed, Anchev himself has continued to be involved in business and public life since his exposure.

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