First court victory for Roma based on the new Bulgarian anti-discrimination act - Romani woman refused services in Sofia shop awarded damages by Bulgarian court

26 July 2004

On 23 July 2004, in a case brought by local counsel acting on behalf of the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) and the Romani Baht Foundation (RBF), the Sofia District court ruled against a company called VALI EOOD, and awarded compensation to Sevda Nanova in the amount of 300 euros on account of the non-pecuniary damages suffered. Ms. Nanova is a Romani women and was found by the Court to have been discriminated against in access to services, solely on the basis of her race.

VALI EOOD operates a clothing shop in a Sofia marketplace. Acting through its employees, it refused to provide services to Ms. Nanova and banned her from its premises. In doing so, the company's staff threatened Ms. Nanova with violence and repeatedly resorted to extreme forms of verbal abuse with respect to her Romani origin.

The Court found that such conduct amounts to direct discrimination based on ethnic origin and is therefore in violation of Bulgarian law. This is the first ruling by a Bulgarian court based on the country's new comprehensive anti-discrimination act, which entered into force on 1 January 2004. The act prohibits discrimination by public as well as private parties in all fields of public life, including in 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 a plausible case of discrimination. The act was adopted with the active involvement of domestic and international human rights groups, including the ERRC and the RBF.

On the occasion of the ruling by the Bulgarian court, ERRC Executive Director Dimitrina Petrova said: "Laws are only as good as their implementation. In the case of Ms. Nanova, the Sofia District Court clearly recognised the need to implement the principle of equal treatment and to correct the injustice Ms. Nanova suffered. We welcome the ruling."

For additional details regarding the above lawsuit, please contact Branimir Plese, ERRC Legal Director (e-mail:, phone:+361 413 2200) and/or Daniela Mihailova RBF Legal Director (e-mail:, phone: +359223 1303)


The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) is an international public interest law organization engaging in a range of activities aimed at combating anti-Romani racism and human rights abuse of Roma, in particular strategic litigation, international advocacy, research and policy development, and training of Romani activists. For more information about the European Roma Rights Center, visit the ERRC website at

The Romani Baht Foundation (RDF), established in 1997, is a human rights organization which works for the protection of Roma rights. Its activities include legal defense and representation of Romani victims of human rights abuse, awareness raising campaigns, strategic litigation, lobbying before governmental institutions, desegregation projects, increasing the quality and improving the access to education of Romani children and adults, social programs, youth exchange programs, and the provision of training for members of the judiciary, Romani NGOs and police officials.

European Roma Rights Center
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93
Phone:+36 1 4132200
Fax:+36 1 4132201

Romani Baht Foundation
8 Nov Jivot Street
Sofia 1373
Phone: +359 2 231303
Fax: +359 2 9204272


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