MINELRES: ERRC lawsuits in Bulgarian restaurant discrimination cases

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Mon Aug 23 15:36:01 2004

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

ERRC lawsuits in Bulgarian restaurant discrimination cases  

ERRC breaks new ground in challenging racial discrimination against Roma
in Bulgaria by making use of new legal possibilities to sue on its own

11 August 2004

On 9 August 2004, the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) filed two
separate lawsuits against restaurants in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria, for
denying Roma access to their services. The cases are the first of their
kind to make use of new provisions under Bulgarian anti-discrimination
law, making it possible for non-governmental organisations to bring
cases on its own behalf before Bulgarian courts.

Throughout December 2003 and February 2004, two privately-owned
restaurants in Blagoevgrad were documented through the method called
"testing to prove racial discrimination" to have repeatedly refused
access to a number of Romani customers. On one occasion, restaurant
staff members even went so far as to openly declare that they were under
strict management orders not to allow Roma in, and that should they fail
to do so, they would be fined by their supervisors. Complaints filed by
victims with the local government office and the police triggered no
action by the authorities.

In court, the ERRC will argue that the restaurants refusal to provide
access to Roma in general, as well as to a number of individual Romani
victims in particular, constitutes blatant acts of overt discrimination
on racial grounds. The ERRC will seek a finding that discrimination has
taken place, and a ban on similar future practices by the two
restaurants. Under Bulgarian antidiscrimination law, as an international
non-governmental organization, the ERRC can bring these cases to court
on its own behalf, without individual claimants, because the conduct at
issue affects a large number of victims and thus clearly involves the
public interest.

Discrimination, as described above, is in breach of numerous
international standards such as those contained in the United Nations
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European
Convention on Human Rights. It is also a violation of Bulgarian
anti-discrimination law which, effective as of 2004, prohibits
discrimination by public as well as private parties in all fields of
social life, including the provision of services. It also provides for a
special judicial remedy against discrimination and the shift of the
burden of proof onto the alleged discriminator, once a complainant has
established that a case of discrimination has likely taken place. The
law was adopted to transpose European Union directives specifying what
provisions anti-discrimination laws in Europe must include.

The ERRC is a public interest law organization with a long and
successful track record of fighting for Roma rights before both domestic
and international courts throughout Europe. This is the first time it
will be acting as a plaintiff in its own right in judicial proceedings
before a Bulgarian court.

For additional details regarding the above lawsuit, please contact
Plese, ERRC Legal Director (Email: branko@errc.org, Phone:+361 413

The European Roma Rights Center 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 Center, visit the ERRC on the web at

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

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



The European Roma Rights Center is dependent upon the generosity of
individual donors for its continued existence. If you believe the ERRC
performs a service valuable to the public, please join in enabling its
future with a contribution. Gifts of all sizes are welcome; bank
transfers are preferred. Please send your contribution to:

European Roma Rights Center
Budapest Bank Rt.
1054 Budapest
Bathory utca 1

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