Standing Against Ethnic Profiling: The Fight for Romani Youth Rights in Romania
09 February 2024
By Judit Ignácz
In a firm step against discrimination, the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and ROMAJUST are confronting Romania's National Council for Combating Discrimination (CNCD) to appeal their decision regarding an incident involving the ethnic profiling of three young Romani men from Bistrița.
The incident unfolded when a young Romani man, accompanied by his brother and a friend, visited a perfume shop in Iulius Mall, Cluj-Napoca. What should have been a routine shopping experience turned into a racist ordeal. Simply because of the colour of their skin, they were singled out by the store's security personnel and asked to empty their pockets on suspicion of theft.
In the aftermath, the young Romani man, alongside ROMAJUST, filed a complaint with the National Council for Combating Discrimination (CNCD), seeking justice for the discrimination they were subjected to. Unfortunately, their initial efforts met with unsatisfactory results. However, two of CNCD's Board of Director members recognised the incident as a case of ethnic discrimination, providing hope for a successful appeal. ROMAJUST and the ERRC are now taking legal action against the CNCD, hoping to overturn the Council's initial decision.
Ethnic profiling is perhaps one of the most common forms of daily discrimination faced by Romani individuals in Romania. It is a humiliating experience which sends Romani communities the message that they are not welcome in public spaces. This appeal is a small but powerful challenge to discrimination and a call for justice, highlighting the importance of legal recourse in the face of discrimination. The fight against discrimination extends beyond this single incident. Racial profiling and discrimination not only violate the rights and dignity of individuals but also perpetuate division and inequality within the community.
Escalated profiling confrontations can lead to police maltreatment and brutality, as happened in Arad, where Romanian police beat a Romani man to death, or the case of two Romani men who were wrongly accused of stealing sheep and tortured and threatened with execution by police officers from Baia in Tulcea County. In 2023, a Council of Europe opinion sharply critiqued Romania’s fundamental shortcomings in effectively combating antigypsyism and protecting Roma from discrimination, as well as condemning anti-Roma hate speech from high-level politicians.
The ERRC and ROMAJUST are exploring further legal options despite the initial case being dismissed. While the incident remains relatively minor, it highlights the importance of legally sanctioning discrimination to ensure equal access to public services and facilities for all citizens, regardless of ethnicity or other characteristics. Discrimination has no place in a just and equitable society, and those responsible must be held accountable.
The ERRC’s COORDE (Challenging online and offline Roma Discrimination in Europe) Project, funded by the European Commission through the "Citizens, Equality, Rights, and Values" Program (CERV-2021-EQUAL), plays a crucial role in addressing discrimination and hate speech against Roma in both online and offline environments. The European Roma Rights Centre ROMAJUST, the Romani Lawyers Association, the Forum for Human Rights (Slovakia), and the Equal Opportunities Initiative Association (Bulgaria) are actively involved in this project to combat discrimination and promote equality and justice for the Romani community.
Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are, however, those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible.