MINELRES: ERRC: UN Anti-Racism Committee Rules against Serbia and Montenegro

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Mon Mar 27 08:41:42 2006

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

United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
first finding against Serbia and Montenegro

State failed to provide an effective remedy in a case of refusal to
allow Roma into discotheque

Budapest / Belgrade, 17 March 2006

In a decision communicated this week, on 8 March 2006, the United
Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination ("the
Committee") adopted a decision against Serbia and Montenegro, whereby it
held that the state failed to conduct a prompt, thorough and effective
investigation into an arguable case of discrimination (article 6 of the
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination).
The petitioner, Mr. Durmic, was jointly represented by the European Roma
Rights Centre (ERRC) and the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC). Mr. Durmic,
a young Romani man had been denied entry into a local discotheque
because of his ethnicity in 2000.

In February 2000, the HLC, along with the Democratic Union of Roma,
responded to numerous complaints about the widespread denial of access
to Roma to clubs, discotheques, restaurants, cafes and swimming pools
solely on the basis of their race by conducting "tests" of several
establishments. One such establishment was a local discotheque,
"Trezor", located in downtown Belgrade. The HLC sent one Romani couple,
one non-Romani couple, and one non-Romani man as testers to Trezor. All
of the testers were neatly dressed and well-behaved - thus the only
apparent difference was the color of their skin. The Romani testers,
including Mr. Dragan Durmic, tried to enter the club but were stopped by
the bouncer. The bouncer told them there was a private party in progress
and that they could not enter without an invitation. The non-Romani male
tester stood close enough to hear the conversation. He explained to the
bouncer that he did not have an invitation and asked whether he could
enter. He was allowed in without any problems. Similarly, the other
non-Romani testers were allowed to enter with no questions asked, no
mention of a private party, and no need for invitations. The Serbian
authorities never conducted an appropriate investigation nor responded
to either the criminal complaint or the constitutional court petition
lodged by the victim.

Consequently, in April 2003, the ERRC and the HLC jointly filed a
complaint with the UN Committee on behalf of Mr. Durmic. The complaint
sought a declaration that Serbia and Montenegro had violated the
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination (ICERD), requested a comprehensive criminal investigation
into the incident, sought just compensation for the victim for
humiliation and degradation suffered from the discrimination, and
requested that Serbian authorities take effective measures to ensure an
end to racial discrimination in admission to the discotheque.

On 8 March 2006, the Committee issued its final consideration on the
case, in which it upheld the petitioner's argument "that the
investigation was neither conducted promptly nor effectively, as nearly
6 years after the incident [...] no investigation, let alone a thorough
one has been carried out". Although the Committee unequivocally stated
that the Serbia "failed to establish whether the petitioner had been
refused access to a public place, on grounds of his national or ethnic
origin, in violation of article 5 (f), of the Convention" it fell short
of finding a separate violation under this heading. Instead, it opted to
assert a violation of article 6 which provides that "States parties
shall assure to everyone within their jurisdiction effective protection
and remedies, through the competent national tribunals and other State
institutions, against any acts of racial discrimination which violate
his human rights and fundamental freedoms contrary to this Convention."

Concluding, the Committee held that the Serbian authorities failed to
examine Mr. Durmic's arguable claim of a violation of article 5 (f) and
it established that Serbia violated article 6 of the Convention by
failing to investigate his claim promptly, thoroughly and effectively.

The Committee recommended that the State party provide the petitioner
with just and adequate compensation commensurate with the moral damage
he has suffered. It also recommended that the State party take measures
to ensure that the police, public prosecutors and the Court of Serbia
and Montenegro properly investigate accusations and complaints related
to acts of racial discrimination, which should be punishable by law
according to article 4 of the Convention.

The Committee's findings come only weeks after in Decision 2006/56/EC of
the European Council of the European Union, in which EU authorities
established as a priority for Serbia and Montenegro, the need to "adopt
comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation". Serbia and Montenegro
currently lacks such a law.

For additional details regarding the Durmic decision, please contact
Andi Dobrushi, ERRC Staff Attorney (e-mail: andi.dobrushi@errc.org,
phone:+361 413 2200) and/or Sandra Orlovic, HLC Human Rights Project
Coordinator (e-mail: humanrights@hlc.org.yu, phone: +38111 344 4313).


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

European Roma Rights Centre
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93
Phone: +36 1 4132200
Fax: +36 1 4132201


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