Roma go to the Constitutional Court of Serbia and Montenegro over Discrimination in Access to Public Services
7 May 2002
On January 30, 2002, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC), a Belgrade-based non-governmental organisation, filed a petition with the Yugoslav Federal Constitutional Court in a case of refused entry of a group of Roma to a Belgrade disco club and the subsequent failure of Serbian authorities to take action to punish such acts of discrimination.
After receiving complaints from Romani persons that they had been refused entry to the Trezor discotheque in Belgrade, on February 18, 2000, the HLC carried out checks on the spot that confirmed these claims. Reportedly, the disco’s doorman told two young Romani persons that they needed to have an invitation to enter, as a private party was under way. Soon thereafter, non-Romani persons were allowed to enter the club without invitations. Both groups were well behaved and appropriately dressed. In July 2000, in connection with the case, the HLC filed a criminal complaint at the Third Municipal Public Prosecutor’s Office against the disco club’s management and staff, on grounds of violating the right to the equality of citizens, guaranteed in the constitution. The prosecutor’s office, however, took no action in the subsequent 18 months. Accordingly, the HLC requested the Federal Constitutional Court to establish that a violation of the constitution and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination had taken place.
Roma experience discrimination in public services in other parts of Serbia as well. While conducting research on the situation of Roma rights in Niš, southern Serbia, the Roma Education Centre (REC), an ERRC local partner in monitoring Roma rights in Serbia, registered cases of discrimination against Roma by state agencies. For example, the municipal garbage removal service never visits the Romani settlement Crvena zvezda in Niš, with around 50 houses, according to local Roma. Additionally, in January 2002, the only three running water taps in the settlement were reportedly frozen, due to very low temperatures, which left the entire settlement without water supply.
(HLC, ERRC, REC)