On 20th July 2022 The Ministry of Justice has introduced a draft bill to amend the Criminal Code to better protect victims of hate crime.
The bill increases penalties for murder and bodily harm when caused by "sexual orientation-related" motives. The penalty for medium bodily harm will now be 2 to 10 years' imprisonment, compared with 3 months to 6 years at present. For example, the attack on Galya Petkova in 2019, when two of her teeth were knocked out by a blow with a fist, is defined as medium bodily harm. The assault on Gloria Filipova at Rainbow Hub in 2021, when she was struck in the face with a fist, is defined as light bodily harm. For this type of injury, the penalty is currently up to 2 years imprisonment and in the future, it will be up to 3 years.
These amendments to the legislation are motivated by cases won by Bulgarian citizens at the European Court of Human Rights. More specifically, at present they are drafted in implementation of Bulgaria’s contract obligations taken under the national Recovery and Resilience Plan. According to the schedule, indicated therein, they must become effective legislation in the second trimester of 2023, which is unabolished duty of the State.
A drawback of the draft law is that another important hate crime remains unchanged: "Whoever, through speech, print or other mass media, electronic information systems or otherwise, advocates or incites discrimination, violence or hatred based on race, nationality or ethnicity, shall be punished by imprisonment from one to four years...". Bulgaria's NGO sector has long lobbied for "sexual orientation or gender identity" to be added to the "race, nationality or ethnicity" indications. This crime is easy to prove - it does not have to be directed at a specific individual or have a victim. It is enough for the perpetrator to incite hatred towards a community and talk about the trait in the abstract without naming specific people in the community. Also, it is not necessary to identify specific people who have been influenced by the hate speech and have adopted the perpetrator's view - it is sufficient that the perpetrator intended to influence them.
Another offense which has not been affected by the new proposal is: "Whoever uses violence against another or damages his property on account of his race, nationality, ethnicity, religion or political opinion shall be punished by imprisonment for one to four years...". In a future bill, it is advisable to include the indications of "sexual orientation or gender identity".
The new draft law is published on the official web site of the Ministry of Justice on this link and after a positive opinion on behalf of the Venice Commission it will be brought to Parliament for voting.