Court: Bulgaria’s surveillance laws breach rights convention

International

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Bulgaria’s legislation on secret surveillance breaches the European human rights convention.

The Strasbourg-based court was asked to evaluate Bulgaria’s 1997 surveillance law as well as several articles in the country’s criminal code.

The court said in a statement Tuesday that the “legislation governing secret surveillance did not meet the quality-of-law requirement” in the European Convention on Human Rights, and the Bulgarian government “was unable to keep surveillance to only that which was necessary.”

According to the court’s decision, laws in Bulgaria that regulate wiretapping and surveillance are of poor quality and cannot guarantee that the interference in the privacy of citizens meets the criteria of a democratic society.

The case was brought by two Bulgarian lawyers, Mihail Ekemdzhiev and Alexander Kashamov, and two human rights groups in 2012, but has been updated with new evidence about secret surveillance in the last decade.

Last year, a special parliamentary commission revealed one of the biggest wire-tapping schemes in Bulgaria’s history. It found that the phone conversations of more than 900 citizens — among them journalists, politicians and rights activists — had been wiretapped during the months-long anti-corruption protests that eventually led to the fall of Bulgaria’s center-right government.

In Tuesday’s ruling, the European court said “the lack of clear regulation had led to a situation where surveillance data could be used for nefarious purposes.” It urged Bulgaria to change its laws with a new legislation compatible with the human rights convention.

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