When Nothing Else Works – CIL Sofia In Action

When Nothing Else Works – CIL Sofia In Action

In most national languages tribunal is a special jurisdiction, usually in postwar situations and outside the regular court system. The 1945 Nurnberg Tribunal marked the start of special courts for crimes against humanity.

In the middle of 20th century a System, somewhere in Europe, is the major perpetrator for a situation like this:


On the 27th August 2015 this System experienced the Citizens’ Tribunal – Disabled People vs. the System.


Bulgarian disabled people are left for years to stay isolated, uneducated and poor, pushed to the margins of society with no opportunities to choose and decide who to have a cup of coffee with. Centre for Independent Living in Sofia runs the battle for years to see a change, to have respect for the human dignity of hundreds of thousand disabled Bulgarians. This battle is hard and unjust: “hard“ as it aims at destroying the long lasting status quo – maintained with the support of passive disabled people – that lasts due to the tragic situation of disabled people; “unjust” as the System operates a wide range of means for oppression and huge public resources to keep the System going. The System screams at us quietly but ominously, shows its teeth, puts disabled people against other disabled people; it kneels down to all governments to keep it unreformed in order to continue to destroy human lives placed in its care.

We have lost many friends and supporters on the long way of the battle. The cruel System did not spare the 22-years old Lora from a small group home in Pleven who starved to death. The System spends money to buy surveillance cameras and install them in the bedrooms of SGHs residents.

The System keeps its built environment inaccessible, spends money for accessible buses with bus-stops in the middle of the road; it does not care about the schools and individual supports at all. The System says that disabled people are sick and does not recognise their needs for participation – technical aids, personal assistance, etc. It locks up innocent people, girls and boys in institutions and takes their future away – once they get into the System they are simply forgotten until money is to be collected for every single ‘personal individual number’ on the list of residents.

So, enough is enough! This is nothing but a crime against humanity and we put the System on trial before the Citizens’ Tribunal. There was a Grant Jury, judges and a Themis – all principles of a due process and fair trial were hundred percent observed.

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and lots of eye-witnesses…

The indictment was clear enough to get the jury decide



The Bulgarian Government is in violation of UN CRPD Art. 19 depriving disabled Bulgarians of their right to choose where and with whom sto live, to participate in communities of their choice, to use public services as all other citizens do by having access to reasonable housing, personal assistance, technical aids and peer support. This situation makes disabled people apply for institutional placement where they are badly treated, misused and oppressed. The so called deinstitutionalisation represents a simple move of large cohorts of people from large, old and worn-out facilities to newly built small houses with institutional type of management. The approach applied is still the one of isolation and referrals of disabled people to special places while mainstream environment is left full of barriers. Instead of providing for personal assistance Government authorities keep hiring social workers, doctors and other professionals to take care of the disabled residents who are not given a chance to enjoy peer support and become empowered in order to move some day to effective community living arrangement. The situation gets even worse given the restricted access of disabled children to decent education in mainstream classes.

Given the circumstances presented in the indictment, the Court urges the Government to start immediate action and pass a new disability legislation, mainstreaming disabilities in all public policies and changing the approach to representation of disabled people in the policies process.


Nina Zhisheva

CIL – Sofia

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