Popular Budapest Club Fined for Affront to Dignity of Roma

Budapest, 26 August 2005. In a case brought by the ERRC together with local counsel, a Budapest court has awarded damages to two Romani men after they were barred from entrance to the discotheque Zold Pardon, a popular local nightclub. The decision is final and binding.

The facts of the case are as follows:

On 14 September 2002, two Romani men, Balint Vadaszi and Istvan Vadaszi, accompanied by two women tried to enter a popular open air club called Zold Pardon in Budapest. The two women -- one of them Romani, both had white skin - entered the club easily, whereas the two men with dark skin were asked to provide identity documents. The two men asked for an explanation as to why they were being refused entrance, because in the meanwhile, they saw many young people entering the place without being asked for identity papers. However, even after one of the men had identified himself, the two plaintiffs were not allowed to enter the club and they ultimately left the premises.

On the basis of the witness testimonies and the recorded video evidence, a lawsuit was filed in which violations of personal rights were alleged, based on the infringement of the right to equal treatment, as regulated i.e. by Article 76 of the Hungarian Civil Code, as well as by Articles 2(1) of Convention for Elimination of All Forms Of Racial Discrimination. The case was brought prior to the adoption by the Hungarian legislature, in December 2003 of a comprehensive anti-discrimination law.

A first instance court refused the complaint on 16 September 2004. However, on appeal, on 25 August 2005, the Budapest City Court held that the Zold Pardon Ltd. and the Doorman-Sec Ltd. operating the Zold Pardon Club in Budapest, violated the plaintiffs' right to dignity. The court did not find an infringement of the requirement of equal treatment based on racial discrimination, apparently because Hungary's anti-discrimination law had not yet been adopted at the time the incident took place. The judge however stated that security guards are not entitled to check the identity documents of prospective guests, a key finding with implications for future cases.

The court awarded 100,000 Hungarian forints (approximately 400 EUR) in non-pecuniary damages to each of the victims. Zold Pardon Ltd. and Doorman-Sec Ltd. were further ordered to refrain from further violations, and were ordered to send a letter of apology to the two Romani men within 15 days. The decision is legally binding. The plaintiffs were represented by local counsel Bea Bodrogi as part of the European Roma Rights Centre Legal Defence program.

All one can say to that is that it is about time things were done in this regard and they should be done automatically in the same way as it would as regards to Jews, Blacks or Asians.