THE OWNER of a bar in the municipality of Spišské Vlachy (in the Spišská Nová Ves district) discriminated against a Roma couple when he refused to serve them in his bar and asked them to leave, according to a court ruling.

The Spišská Nová Ves District Court decided the couple should be compensated for the discrimination with €300 each.

The incident occurred in December 2009. Roman Pecha, then working as a teacher’s assistant, was asked to leave the bar, with the owner reasoning that if he serves two Roma, 10 more would come to the bar a week later.

“With my wife and sometimes with children, too, we go to restaurants in Spiš [region], and we’ve never had such a problem,” Pecha told the Sme daily.

A former reporter for the local newspaper, Erika Karasová, who covered the story back in 2009, claims the bar did not used to discriminate against Roma.

“The owner was willing to communicate with us, he wouldn’t hide from us,” she told Sme, adding that the owner claimed back then that Pecha was with a group that was being noisy and making a mess.

Karasová however admitted that some bars and restaurants might have problems serving Roma customers.

“There is a populous community living in the region, everyone has their opinion, and businessmen also treat them in various ways,” she told Sme.

The court first ruled in the case in 2012, when it decided that Pecha and his wife suffered discrimination due to their ethnic origin. The court then ordered the bar owner to publicly apologise by displaying a written apology in the bar as well as publishing it as a classified ad in the regional newspaper. No damages were awarded to the Roma couple, however.

In May 2013, the Prešov Regional Court returned the ruling to the first instance court, ordering it to award damages to the victims.

In the recent repeated ruling, the district court ordered the bar owner to pay €300 to each of the two people it discriminated against, arguing that the bar owner’s conduct interfered with their human dignity.

Lawyer Vanda Durbáková, who represented the Roma couple, welcomes the fact that damages were finally awarded to the couple, but with regard to international standards, the sum of the compensation appears to be insufficient, she said.

“Financial damages in discrimination cases should not only compensate the discriminated persons, but also have a preventive effect and discourage other subjects from discriminatory behaviour in the future,” Durbáková said.

Pecha and his wife received the verdict five years after the event occurred. He sought compensation at €1,000, and is now ready to appeal against the sum the court granted him.

In a similar case, three Roma from Michalovce were not allowed to enter a disco back in 2005, and though the court ruled that they suffered discrimination, no damages were awarded, Sme noted.