European Rights Court Censures Bulgaria Over Homophobic Murder

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) building in Strasbourg, France. Photo: EPA-EFE.

The court said that Bulgaria must pay Stoyanova 7,000 euros in damages and 3,183.90 euros for costs and expenses for violating the European Convention on Human Rights.

The death of Mihail Stoyanov, a medicine student, was one of the most high-profile homophobic crimes in the history of Bulgaria.

The three attackers were secondary-school students who patrolled the Borisova Gradina park in the capital for people they thought were homosexual and decided to attack Stoyanov. The next morning, a passer-by found his body and called the police.

The European court found that, although the local courts had clearly established that the reason behind the murder had been the perpetrators' hatred for LGBT people, there had been no legal consequences for this as the Bulgarian criminal code does not cite homophobia as an aggravating factor.

The attackers were arrested in 2010, and two of them were and found guilty of aggravated murder. The other appeared as a witness in the trial.

"This long-awaited decision brings justice to all people in the LGBTI community," Radoslav Stoyanov, an LGBT activist and a member of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, said in a statement.

"When the perpetrator's motive is based on the victim's sexual orientation, gender identity or gender characteristics, this threatens all people who have the same orientation, identity or characteristics. If a person is killed today because he is gay, I, as a gay man, have every reason to fear that I am a potential target," he added.

Since the murder of Mihail Stoyanov, there have been various other homophobic crimes in Bulgaria.

In October 2020, queer teenagers were...

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