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Reform of gun laws after police shoot dead unarmed men

Nachova and others v. Bulgaria  | 2005

Reform of gun laws after police shoot dead unarmed men

He shot them dead right here … just like dogs. He was shouting, furious, with a crazy look in his eyes, saying that he was going to ‘get all the Gypsies’. He even pointed his gun towards me.

Nedka, the aunt of one of the victims, recalls the day her nephew and his friend were killed in the family garden. Reported by the newspaper "SEGA".

Background

Kuncho Angelov and Kiril Petkov were both 21-year-old conscripts, when they absconded from their military service. They went to see their grandmother. When the authorities arrived, the young men were unarmed, non-violent and tried to run away. However, the commanding officer of the military police used a Kalashnikov rifle to shoot them both dead. One was shot in the chest; the other in the back. 

The dead men were both of Roma origin. After the shooting, the officer allegedly pointed his gun at a young boy and shouted, “You damn gypsies!”. None of the military police were prosecuted.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The Strasbourg court ruled that the military police had caused the deaths by using grossly excessive force. The authorities then failed to carry out a proper investigation into why the men had been killed, or whether discrimination had played a role in the shootings.

These failings had resulted from inadequate regulations. The rules at the time had given the authorities the right to shoot any member of the armed forces who was resisting arrest, even if they posed no danger or were running away. The issue had also been highlighted in another case before the court, involving the regular police.  

Follow-up

Changes were made to the laws on the use of guns by police (in 2012 and 2014) and military police (in 2016). The changes mean that firearms can now only be used in cases of “absolute necessity”. The law also requires effective investigations to be carried out into possible racist motives behind the use of excessive force during arrests.