MINELRES: ERRC: Bulgarian Courts Continue to Move Against Racial Discrimination

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Tue Aug 2 16:19:21 2005


Original sender: European Roma Rights Centre <errc@errc.org>


The European Roma Rights Centre Wins Antidiscrimination Case against 
Bulgarian Restaurant

Budapest, Sofia, 27 June 2005: In a judgment based on Bulgaria's 
comprehensive anti-discrimination law, the Blagoevgrad trial court in 
southwestern Bulgaria has ruled against a local restaurant for having 
denied its services to Romani customers. The court found the refusal of 
services to constitute discrimination, and ordered the business to
abstain from repeating such conduct. The claim was brought by the ERRC
in its own capacity in the public interest, making use of a provision of
Bulgaria's Protection Against Discrimination Act, authorising public
interest lawsuits by NGOs where discrimination has infringed the rights
of many individuals.

The facts of the case are as follows: On 28 March 2004, a group of
Romani individuals visited a Blagoevgrad restaurant, and were seated at
a table. The establishment was busy, with a number of non-Romani
customers enjoying the service. The Romani group were left waiting,
ignored by waiters, despite their repeated requests to be served.
Newcomer non-Romani clients, who had entered after the Romani group,
were served. Approximately one hour after they had entered, the Romani
customers had still not been served. They sought an explanation from a
manager but received none, and left. Immediately, they filed a complaint
with the police and, shortly thereafter, brought the facts to the
attention of the ERRC.

In court, the ERRC argued that the business' refusal to provide services
to the Romani customers constituted direct racial discrimination in
breach of Bulgaria's Protection Against Discrimination Act, affecting
any potential Romani customer, as well as the actual victims. The ERRC
sought a court declaration to this effect, and a ban on the business
from further denying their services to Romani clients. The respondent
defended itself, claiming that the refusal of services was not based on
race, but on a legitimate reason. It was alleged that the Romani
customers had come after working hours when no orders were being taken
any longer. The ERRC however produced evidence which successfully
established that the victims had come within working hours, as well as
that customers were generally served by the business after official
working hours, exposing thereby respondent's alleged reason to be
pretextual. Based on the evidence, the court ruled that respondent had
failed to rebut the inference of discrimination, and, accordingly,
discrimination was established.

The decision is the most recent in a steady stream of positive findings
by Bulgarian courts in discrimination cases against Roma, since
Bulgaria's comprehensive anti-discrimination law was adopted in December
2003.

On the occasion of the decision, ERRC Legal Director Dianne Post said:
"With this decision, Bulgarian judicial authorities continue to
demonstrate that the law is an effective tool for challenging racial
discrimination. Racial discriminators in Bulgaria are now on alert that
their actions will land them in court."

The decision may still be appealed. ERRC has been represented by
attorney Margarita Ilieva, Sofia-based consultant for the ERRC on racial
discrimination litigation.

For further information on the case, please contact ERRC Legal Director
Dianne Post 
at +36-1-413-2221 (dianne.post@errc.org), or Margarita Ilieva 
at +359-2-943-4876 (margarita@bghelsinki.org).
_____________________________________________

The European Roma Rights Centre is an international public interest law 
organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal
defence in cases of human rights abuse. For more information about the
European Roma Rights Centre, visit the ERRC on the web at
http://www.errc.org.

European Roma Rights Centre
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93
Hungary

Phone: +36 1 4132200
Fax:   +36 1 4132201
____________________________________________

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