Lawsuit filed with the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination for refusal to allow Roma into discotheque in Serbia and Montenegro

02 April 2003

On April 2, 2003, the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) and the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) jointly filed an application against Serbia and Montenegro with the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) on behalf of Dragan Durmic, a young Romani man who was denied entry into a local discotheque because of his ethnicity. Although the incident occurred over three years ago, Serbian authorities have never conducted an appropriate investigation nor responded to either the criminal complaint or the constitutionalcourt petition lodged by the victim. Article 60 of the Serbian CriminalCode prohibits the denial or restriction of citizens' rights based on race or ethnicity, with punishment ranging from three months' to five years' imprisonment.

The HLC, along with the Democratic Union of Roma, in February 2000 responded to numerous complaints about the widespread denial of access to Roma to clubs, discotheques, restaurants, cafes and swimming pools solely on the basis of their race by conducting "tests" of several establishments. One such establishment was a local discotheque, "Trezor", located in downtown Belgrade. The HLC sent one Romani couple, one non-Romani couple, and one non-Romani man as testers to Trezor. All of the testers were neatly dressed and well-behaved -- thus the only apparent difference was the color of their skin. The Romani testers, including Dragan Durmic, tried to enter the club but were stopped by the bouncer. The bouncer told them there was a private party in progress and that they could not enter without an invitation. The non-Romani male tester stood close enough to hear the conversation. He explained to the bouncer that he did not have an invitation and asked whether he could enter. He was allowed in without any problems. Similarly, the other non-Romani testers were allowed to enter with no questions asked, no mention of a private party, and no need for invitations. Mr Durmic filed a criminal complaint, to no avail, and a petition with the constitutional court, which has been ignored.

The lawsuit seeks a declaration that Serbia and Montenegro has violated the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, requests a comprehensive criminal investigation into the incident, seeks just compensation for the victim for humiliation and degradation suffered from the discrimination, and requests Serbian authorities to take effective measures to ensure an end to racial discrimination in admission to the discotheque.


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