MINELRES: ERRC: Serbia: Discrimination against Roma punished by the Court

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Fri Jul 27 07:46:24 2007

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

Discrimination against Roma punished by the Court  

On April 19th 2007, the Fourth Municipal Court in Belgrade found
Aleksandar Nikolic a security guard at the “Acapulco” club in Belgrade,
guilty of denying access to three Roma citizens Zorica Stojkovic, Petar
Antic and Ljutvija Antic solely on the grounds of their ethnicity. The
Courts sentenced him to six months in prison, suspended for two years.
The second accused, Aleksandar Sabo, was acquitted of all charges. 
The Court decision is welcomed by the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC)
in Budapest, Minority Rights Centre (MRC) and the Humanitarian Law
Centre (HLC) from Belgrade which filed the criminal complaint against
Aleksandar Nikolic and Aleksandar Sabo. The three organisations
represented the victims in the legal proceedings that followed.

The plaintiffs made several attempts to enter the “Acapulco” club, but
they were refused each time by the security guards who told them that
either a reservation or a member card was needed in order to gain
access. This prompted the HLC and MRC to conduct a situational test on
25 July 2003, so they could prove beyond reasonable doubt the existence
of discrimination against these Roma individuals in respect of their
right to access public places. 

Situational testing is a technique whereby researchers deliberately
create a comparator group to demonstrate a difference of treatment on
the basis of a prohibited ground.  It is a way of proving discrimination
and is sometimes the only way to prove that an act of discrimination
really happened. Two teams consisting of three persons each conducted
the test. The first team was composed of Roma, while the second team was
made up of non-Roma individuals. All participants were neatly dressed
and the only visible difference between them was their skin colour. They
all acted in an acceptable manner during the test and did nothing to
prompt or provoke the guards. The group made up of Roma citizens tried
to enter the club first and the guards at the door asked them whether
they had reservations. When they said that they did not, they were told
they could not go in without reservations. When the second team made up
of non-Roma citizens came to the door, they were let in without any
questions whatsoever. 

The decision handed down by a trial chamber of the Fourth Municipal
Court states that such acts of the security guards of the “Acapulco”
club constitute a criminal act of violation of the right to equal
treatment for all citizens and their conduct also represents a violation
of the relevant provisions of International Convention on the
Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Constitution of
the Republic of Serbia, and the Charter of Human and Minority Rights
which was in effect at the time. 

This case highlights the unlawful and all too common practice of
discrimination against Roma which denies them access to services in
restaurants, bars, clubs and discos open to the public. The HLC, ERRC
and MRC believe that this practice is widespread in Serbia and other
European countries and calls on restaurants, club owners and other
service providers to ensure that their services are open to all
customers without racial discrimination and to ensure that their staff
are aware of their responsibilities under the law. 

The HLC helps post-Yugoslav societies re-establish the rule of law and
come to terms with the legacy of large scale past human rights abuses in
order to prevent their recurrence, to ensure accountability, and to
serve justice.

MRC is a public interest law organization devoted to the improvement of
the status of Roma in Serbia. The MRC is a non-profit, non-governmental
organization established to suppress racism, discrimination and human
rights abuses of Roma, as well as to promote equal treatment. Since its
founding in 2001, the MRC has been engaged in advocating for the respect
of Roma’s rights at the highest national level and policy development.
Furthermore, its work includes legal aid and litigation for Romani
victims. Throughout its activities, the MRC wishes to facilitate access
to education, employment, adequate housing, health care and public
services for Roma people. 


The European Roma Rights Centre is an international public interest law
organisation which monitors the human rights situation 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 

To support the ERRC, please visit this link:

European Roma Rights Centre
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93
Tel: +36.1.413.2200

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