Hungarian Discotheque Fined for Unequal Treatment

Court Punishes Disco for Denying Entrance to Roma on Racist Grounds

Budapest. In one of the first Roma rights decisions issued under Hungary's comprehensive anti-discrimination law, a discotheque in the town of Nagyhalász, in northeastern Hungary, has been fined the Hungarian forint equivalent of approximately 2400 Euros for discriminating against Roma.

The facts of the case are as follows:

On 10 April 2004, Ms. Agnes Rado and three other young people, two of whom were, like Ms. Rado, Romani, were turned away by guards at the door of the Julia Central Discobar in the town of Nagyhalasz, for the stated reason that they were not "regular guests". Non-Roma coming after them managed to enter without any identification or having questions asked of them. In the framework of a joint litigation project with the ERRC, the Budapest-based NGO Legal Defence Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities (NEKI) conducted a test of the disco on 12 June 2004, to determine whether the establishment was racially discriminating or not. The tests ascertained that Roma were banned from entering the bar, while non-Roma were allowed entrance.

On the basis of the evidence gathered, a lawsuit was filed in which violations of personal rights, based on the infringement of the right to equal treatment, as regulated by Article 76 of the Hungarian Civil Code, as well as by Articles 8 and 30(1) of Hungary's new anti-discrimination law, were alleged. It was also noted in submissions that under Hungarys anti-discrimination law, adopted to comply with EU rules banning discrimination, where it has been established that discrimination has taken place, the burden of proof shifts to the respondent.

On 13 June 2005, the Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County Court held that the Julia Central Ltd., operating the Julia Central Discobar in Nagyhalasz, violated the plaintiff's right to dignity and infringed the requirement of equal treatment. The court awarded 150,000 Hungarian forints each (approximately 600 EUR) in non-pecuniary damages to Ms. Rado and to the other three persons concerned. The Julia Central Ltd. was further ordered to refrain from further violations, and was ordered to post the court's decision at the discotheque for two months.

The ruling is among the first to date issued by courts under Hungary's comprehensive anti-discrimination law, adopted in December 2003, and is part of an important developing anti-discrimination jurisprudence on Roma rights matters in Europe. The decision may still be appealed. The plaintiffs have been represented by Erika Muhi, an attorney based at the Legal Defence Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities (NEKI), as part of a joint litigation project with the European Roma Rights Centre.

For further information on the case, please contact Erika Muhi at +36-1-303-8973 (muhi@neki.hu) and/or ERRC Staff Attorney Anita Danka at +36-1-413-2221 (anita.danka@errc.org).

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