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2007-05-14 - Commission for Protection against Discrimination, n. 44

State support · Bulgaria · Discrimination · Place of worship · Public funding

The Commission for protection against discrimination cannot order to a municipality to grant the necessary funding to build a ritual hall or to deliver the related permit

Key facts of the case - The Muslim civil association – the town of Kazanlak and the Board of Trustees at the Chief Mufti in Kazanlak have lodged a request before the mayor of Kazanlak to obtain the funding and permission for the construction of a ritual hall in the backyard of the local mosque to be used for funeral rites in conformity with the Islam religion. Another request from the Muslim civil association, the National Muslim Union, the Municipal council of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms was also lodged with the Mayor asking for the allocation of a terrain for a cemetery to be run by the Muslim Board of Trustees in Kazanlak.
They argue that in Kazanlak the ritual funerals take place in one and the same place both for Muslims and Christians, which runs counter to the Muslim norms of religion. In addition, Muslims, having very low incomes, are not in a position to pay for the services carried out in the Kazanlak cemeteries. The appellant also claims that their request for a plot of 10 decares for private cemeteries was rejected with the argument that the municipality is not in a position to fulfill this demand and the request for funding and construction of a ritual hall was tacitly dismissed. Thus, they deem that they were discriminated on religious grounds.
According to the response of the municipality, the planned extension will increase the plot, the land for Muslim funerals will be extended too, but it is not possible to assign a private graveyard. As regards the request for a ritual hall they answered that it would be located in the courtyard of the mosque as an additional construction but as at the moment a project for amendment of the regulation plan has been developed. A design allowing the construction of a ritual hall can be issued only after the new plan enters into force. An opinion has been expressed that the refusal is well-motivated and it is not discriminating.

Main reasoning of the court - The Commission will not consider the request of the Association asking the Commission to oblige the Kazanlak municipality to fulfill the claimants’ requests before the municipality. These demands are in the proxy of the Municipal Council according to the Law for the Municipal Property and in the proxy of the Council of Ministers and the Minister of the Regional Development and Public Works according to the Law for State Property. The relations that occurred between the complainant and the parties concerned are beyond the powers of the Commission as referred in Article 47 of the Protection against Discrimination Act.
The court has not found any violation and discrimination towards the Muslim community on the part of the mayor and the Municipal council in Kazanlak and dismissed the claim of the association as unsubstantiated and ungrounded as there is no discrimination within the meaning of Article 4 of the Protection against Discrimination Act.

Comment - The Third Panel of the Commission for Protection against Discrimination (CPD) deals with cases related to nationality, citizenship, origin, religion and faith. There is also the Five-member Panel for dealing with cases of multiple-discrimination.