Bulgaria’s secret surveillance laws not compliant with Europe’s Human Rights Convention: European Court of Human Rights

In a significant development, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Bulgaria violated the European Convention of Human Rights citing its secret surveillance and retention and accessing of communication data.

The court order comes after two Bulgarian lawyers and two rights protection non-profit organisations in 2012 filed a complaint with the ECHR chamber which found that the Bulgarian legislation did not meet the requirements of the Convention and was unable to keep surveillance to only that which was necessary.

The ECHR chamber also ruled that Bulgarian laws on retention and accessing communication data were incapable of limiting such operations to what was strictly needed; furthermore, it was also a breach of the Article 8 of the Convention.

“The European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private life and correspondence) of the European Convention on Human Rights,” it said in a statement.

Secret surveillance in Bulgaria, which joined in the EU in 2007, has been a topic of hot discussions.

In August a special parliamentary commission found that special services had eavesdropped on more than 900 Bulgarians, including politicians, journalists and activists between 2020 till May 2021.

The head of the commission then, Nikolai Hadzhigenov, has said classified data pointed to the biggest wire-tapping and eavesdropping on Bulgarian citizens in the recent history.

Incidentally, the prosecutors’ office has denied any illegal eavesdropping on politicians.

In the case brought to the ECHR, the court found that there was a lack of proper judicial oversight over decisions to issue warrants for surveillance in the country. It also ruled that a lack of clear regulation had led to a situation where secret surveillance data could be used for nefarious purposes.

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