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Bulgarian lawyers trained in providing legal aid and representation to victims of trafficking in Bulgaria

24 October 2014

On 21, 22 and 23 October, 23 lawyers were trained in Sofia to provide legal aid to trafficked persons and defend their interests and rights during criminal and other legal proceedings. This training took place in the framework of the project “Promotion of the Rights of Trafficked Persons in Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia with Emphasis on Legal Support – A Human Rights-Based Approach”.  

There are many problems in Bulgaria regarding the situation of legal aid and representation to victims of trafficking. There is no effective referral for trafficked persons to legal aid and legal counsel . There are almost no qualified lawyers who can provide legal aid; there is a lack of knowledge within the judicial system about the phenomenon of trafficking; a lack of knowledge about the rights of trafficking victims; and relevant laws are not used effectively in general.

The lawyers were selected on the basis of their experience, motivation and the region where they were from. Some already had experience with cases of trafficking, and had represented trafficking victims in court. Others did not have experience, but were motivated to work with victims – including working on a pro bono basis. The participants have committed themselves to provide legal aid after the training in cooperation with Animus Association, NHC’s project partner in Bulgaria in this project.

Some of the topics of the training were: international and national definitions of trafficking; trafficking in Bulgaria and specific national problems; communication with victims of trafficking; prostitution; protection of the rights of the victims during interviews and interrogations; and compensation for victims. The training was interactive with role plays.

Partners in this training are Animus from Bulgaria and the Netherlands Helsinki Committee. International and local experts are part of the training team.

The aim of this project is to create a sustainable network of lawyers and social workers, able to provide legal counseling and aid to trafficked persons, which will continue to cooperate after the closure of the project. The lawyers were selected from different regions of Bulgaria. This way in the future qualified and sensitized lawyers will be available also outside the capital Sofia in peripheral areas. The trainings will be followed by a number of expert meetings in 2015 on different topics.

The training of the lawyers is part of a regional project aimed at specializing social workers and lawyers in assisting victims of trafficking in human beings in Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia. The Netherlands Helsinki Committee works in partnership with Animus Association (Bulgaria), Human Rights League (Slovakia), ADPARE –Association for Developing Alternative Practices for Reintegration and Education (Romania) and Association Pro Refugiu (Romania)

More information about the project can be found here.

Hand over of the training certificate to one of the Bulgarian trainees, by Netherlands Helsinki Committee project manager Julia Koster.