Serbia: First final verdict for severe discrimination at the workplace based on sexual orientation
Belgrade, 9 January 2013
Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) wishes to inform the public that its Litigation Service received the final verdict of the Court of Appeals in city of Novi Sad which confirmed discriminatory behavior and the severe discrimination against M.A. (25) from the Serbian city of Vršac by his colleague Dario K. (26) from Vlajkovac (place near by Vršac). The discrimination lasted continuously for several months at the workplace in a private company in Vršac where both men worked.
This is the first time a final verdict was delivered in Serbia on the basis of the Anti-Discrimination Law regarding discrimination at the workplace because of different sexual orientation. GSA Litigation Service, which represented M.A., led the case against Dario K. since April 2011. The final verdict of the Court of Appeals orders Dario K. to pay 180 thousand Serbian dinars in damages to M.A. for suffered mental anguish on account of the violations of protection of personality and privacy rights, reputation and honor, as well as to reimburse the court costs of GSA Litigation Service in the amount of 99 thousand Serbian dinars.
M.A. came to GSA in March 2011 and described the case where his colleague Dario K. insulted and threatened him, even with physical violence, for a longer period of time. This behavior by Dario K. began after he took M.A.’s cell phone without M.A.’s knowledge and read his private messages, through which he learned about M.A.’s homosexual orientation. After that Dario K. started threatening and insulting M.A., telling him among other things: “You big faggot, you disgust me”, “You are disgusting, you should be put on a stake” and “You should all be put to death”, and then he threatened to “kill him if anything came from the court or the police”. M.A. also claimed that Dario K. was physically violent towards him on a few occasions. Due to such behavior on the part of his colleague, M.A. was forced on several occasions to seek medical assistance.
The Court of Appeals decided in this case that the accused Dario K. acted discriminatorily towards the prosecutor M.A. because of his homosexual orientation and because he repeated this act during a six-month period thereby committing the severe discrimination. The verdict is based on Articles 12, 13 and 21 of the Anti-Discrimination Law, and the Court of Appeal also states the violation of Articles 21, 23 and 25 of the Serbian Constitution which forbid discrimination on any basis and guarantees the right to human dignity and mental integrity.
In the explanation of the final verdict, among other things, the Court of Appeal states that it is “without doubt that words ’fag’ and ’faggot’ are expressions which in Serbian language have the meaning of negative, demeaning, debasing and insulting identification of a male person with homosexual orientation“ and that their usage “represents a disturbing and demeaning act which aims to violate and represents the violation of dignity based on a personal characteristic – homosexual orientation“. From the fact that after learning about his sexual orientation the accused frequently insulted M.A., on several occasions and during a longer period of time, the Court of Appeal judged that such behavior represents repeated and prolonged discrimination, i.e. the severe discrimination.
Unfortunately, the first instance verdict of the Basic Court in Vršac was not favorable for M.A. because it dismissed the suit for determining discriminatory behavior of Dario K. and redress of nonmaterial damages. However, GSA Litigation Service appealed the verdict to the Court of Appeal in Novi Sad, after which its Committee of Judges determined that this decision of the Basic Court in Vršac was made on the basis of erroneous application of material law and then issued the final convicting verdict on the basis of the shown evidence.
GSA is extremely satisfied with the final verdict of the Court of Appeal in Novi Sad and the relative speed of the process, as well as with the explanation of this verdict by the Court of Appeal, and the fact that the Court of Appeal did not return the case for a retrial, which is a common practice, but used its right to reach a final verdict.
M.A. is also pleased with the verdict, which he confirmed in conversation with GSA, because, as he says, he received satisfaction and protected his dignity. Among other things, he said:
“I try to work hard and my sexual orientation certainly does not affect my work results. Like everyone, I consider good work atmosphere to be very important, but instead I had maltreatment and I was very depressed because of daily humiliation. It was very difficult but I realized that I should not suffer this because I did not do anything wrong. I came to GSA and we filed a lawsuit. I wanted the State to protect me, to show that it is interested in protecting me. I am pleased with this final verdict, because it confirmed that I did the right thing, but the first instance verdict really disappointed me. After it I thought there was no justice, but I did not want to give up, I continued to fight and justice is finally here.“
Since 2009 GSA Litigation Service provides free legal aid and represents victims of violence and discrimination on the basis of real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity, creating in addition the court practice in this field and monitoring the work of police and the judiciary. Up to this point, it has processed more than 30 cases before various courts in Serbia and won several final verdicts for discrimination, including the cases against daily newspapers Press and Nebojša Bakarec, as well as several first-instance verdicts, which is a significant achievement considering that up until 2009 Serbian court practice in cases about sexual orientation and gender identity was all but non-existant. GSA Litigation Service is currently involved in various cases, in different areas, including attempted murder of a lesbian A.Ž. in October 2011 because of a shirt with Pride Parade symbols, the beating of a young gay man V.M. near a gay club in September 2012, insulting and maltreating a school teacher M.D. from Novi Sad because of his sexual orientation, banning a GSA press conference in Sava Centar, and others, as well as giving legal advice to LGBT people in cases which they are processing independently. The cases led by GSA Litigation Service are for the most part presented in the annual reports of GSA on the status of human rights of LGBT people in Serbia.
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