JUSTICE - No. 67

46 No. 67 JUSTICE his article focuses on a Bulgarian court case and the subsequent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in February 2021: the case of Behar and Gutman v. Bulgaria (Application no. 29335/13). This case involves statements made byVolen Siderov, a Bulgarian parliament member, celebrity politician, and presidential candidate in 2006. In 2005, Siderov founded the far-right ultra-nationalist political party ATAKA, which means “attack.” This party is known for verbally attacking ethnic minorities and foreigners. In 2002, Siderov wrote: “Enslaving other people has for centuries been the supreme goal of the Jewish world elite.”1 In 2004, he wrote: “[E]verywhere on the European continent Jews got under the skin of rulers, pushed them towards wars and cataclysms, so that they would fall in an acute need of money.”2 Following these statements, Siderov was sued by 18 people and 66 NGOs. The Sofia District Court split all the lawsuits into eight separate cases, divided according to the specific type of discrimination and alleged harassment (among them, incitement to discrimination against Roma, Turks, Jews, Catholics, and sexual minorities). In response to his anti-Jewish rhetoric, the two Jewish applicants among the plaintiffs demanded an apology and that he stop making such comments. The Sofia District Court ruled in 2009 that Mr. Siderov had simply been exercising his freedom of expression and that there was no proof that his actions contributed to incitement to discrimination. The case was therefore dismissed. This ruling was appealed before the Sofia City Court of Appeal, which in 2010 upheld the first court’s ruling and stated that while it was true that his negative statements could shock or offend, this was not enough to restrict his freedom of expression. The appellate ruling was also appealed to the Supreme Court, but that court declined to accept the appeal for examination. The Bulgarian government’s position, based on a similar case relating to public statements about Roma as a group, was that Siderov’s statements were views “on philosophical and religious matters” for which there was“no consensus,”and that while his statements about Judaism were admittedly “strongly worded,” he had merely expressed his opinion and had resorted “to inflated language in order to attract attention.”3 They also noted that the applicants’ ancestors had not perished in the Holocaust, and that they had been neither personally named nor personally suffered from the hate speech. As a last resort, the applicants brought the case before the European Court of Human Rights. The court, in February 2021, stated in very simple terms that this was antisemitic hate speech, that Siderov’s statements were “virulently anti-Semitic,”4 that“they rehearsed timeworn anti-Semitic and Holocaust denial narratives,”and that they were“meant to vilify Jews and to stir up prejudice and hatred towards them.”5 The court also held that the statements could affect Bulgarian Jews’ sense of identity and self-worth, and that they had an impact on their right to a private life.6 The European Court of Human Rights and Antisemitism: Recent Case Law T TaliaNaamat 1. Volen Siderov,“The Boomerang of Evil,”2002, p. 156, as cited in the case of Behar and Gutman v. Bulgaria, Application no. 29335/13, p. 5, available at http://hudoc. echr.coe.int/fre?i=001-207929 2. Volen Siderov, “The Power of Mammon,” 2004, p. 58, as cited in the case of Behar and Gutman v. Bulgaria, Application no. 29335/13, p. 4, available at http://hudoc. echr.coe.int/fre?i=001-207929 3. Sec. 93 of the case of Behar and Gutman v. Bulgaria, p. 29, available at http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/fre?i=001-207929 4. Ibid., Sec. 68, p. 22. 5. Ibid., Sec. 71, p. 22. 6. Ibid., Sec. 73, p.23.