ECtHR rules Bulgaia’s Interior Minister has violated the presumption of innocence in a media appearance

On 2 February 2021, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that in 2013 Bulgaria’s Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov had violated the presumption of innocence (Article 6 § 2 of the Convention) of Vladimir Pelov, investigated for armed robbery committed in 2011. At a time when Pelov was under house arrest, the Minister commented on the case in a popular show on the Bulgarian National Television, saying: “What is important for me is that institutions should work in the interests of society. That they should abide by the rule of law. I can give you many astounding examples, [such as that of] Vladimir Pelov; you know that a year and several months ago he committed an armed robbery in Botevgrad. After that he ran away, unlawfully taking a car with a woman and a child in it. [H]e shot at police officers. When we saw his criminal record, it turned out that … he had committed a similar robbery of a jewellery workshop, and after that he had also committed a murder for which he had received a twenty-year prison sentence. Ten years later he was granted early release for good behaviour. One year after that, less than a year in fact, he committed this armed robbery in Botevgrad.” In its decision, the Court stated: “Even if the Court may be prepared to accept that the words were uttered spontaneously, during a live television broadcast, while the Minister of the Interior was giving an example of decisions of the national courts, which he disapproved of, it reiterates once again that the Minister, as a high‑ranking public official, was obliged to choose his words carefully.”

Full text of the decision can be found here.