ERRC Wins Anti-discrimination Case against Bulgarian Restaurant

On June 27, 2005, in a case brought by the ERRC, the Blagoevgrad trial court in southwestern Bulgaria ruled against a local restaurant for having denied its services to Romani customers. On March 28, 2004, a group of Romani individuals visited the restaurant and were ignored and denied service for over an hour while non-Romani customers, arriving later, were served. The Romani customers sought an explanation from the manager, received none and immediately left to file a complaint with the police and subsequently the ERRC.

Making use of a provision in Bulgaria's Protection Against Discrimination Act that authorises public interest lawsuits by NGOs where discrimination has infringed the rights of many individuals, the ERRC brought the case arguing that the business's refusal to provide services to the Romani customers constituted direct racial discrimination, affecting any potential Romani customer, as well as the actual victims. The ERRC sought a court declaration to this effect, and a ban on the business from further denying their services to Romani clients. The court found the refusal of services to constitute discrimination, and ordered the restaurant to abstain from repeating such conduct.

The decision is the most recent in a steady stream of positive findings by Bulgarian courts in discrimination cases against Roma, since Bulgaria's anti-discrimination law was adopted in December 2003. Further information is available on the ERRC's website at: http://www.errc.org.

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