ACCEPT wins in the case of homophobic statements of the former MEP George Becali regarding recruitment policy at Steaua Bucharest Football Club
Today, 25.04.2013, the Court of Justice of the European Union has decided in the case of preliminary questions regarding anti-discrimination legislation in Romania filed by ACCEPT Association against George Becali, former MEP, currently member of the Legal Committee of the Romanian Senate. The European judges decided that George Becali’s statements that there will be no homosexuals at Steaua team are facts from which it may be presumed the existence of a discriminatory recruitment policy against homosexuals within Steaua Bucharest Football Club. The Court stated that it is the burden of the club to prove that it does not discriminate against homosexuals by stating that the fact that the employer did not clearly distance itself from the statements can be taken into consideration when assessing the recruitment policies. With regards to the national sanctioning mechanism against discrimination, the Court decided that once a sanctioning system is established, it must be effective, proportionate and dissuasive, not only having the nature of a warning. The Court criticized the six month time limit after which the National Council for Combating Discrimination in Romania applies only warnings and not administrative fines.
First of all, the Court judgment is a signal from the European Union that it is not enough to adopt measures against discrimination only on paper, without enforcing them in good faith. The enforcement of laws in practice and concrete results are expected. “Discrimination, including discrimination in employment, is a serious offence that cannot be tolerated in a country that wants to be a full member of the European Union. It is frustrating to go to Luxembourg to make sure that the national authorities understand this.” said Iustina Ionescu, the lawyer that represented ACCEPT in this case. The message sent by the Court is that the Romanian system of protection against discrimination must be strengthened and applied with the same weight in the case of the common employer or a notorious football club, such as Steaua Bucuresti Football Club, and the statements belong to a public figure, who was a member of the European Parliament at the time of the statements, now a senator member of the Legal Commission in the Romanian Senate.
At 6 pm on 20th February 2013, a cultural event organised with the support of the US Embassy in Bucharest at the Museum of the Romanian Peasant (MRP) as part of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) History Month was violently interrupted by a group of far-right militants who burst into the New Romanian Director cinema and occupied it. That afternoon The Kids Are All Right was supposed to be on, a film about the life of a gay family from the USA, which was awarded two Golden Globes and received four Academy Awards nominations.
The 50-odd extreme right militants stopped the show a few minutes after it had started, repeatedly filmed, photographed and verbally aggressed the film-goers who were already inside the cinema, calling them „beasts” and „scum,” and chanted „Death to the homosexuals,” „We don’t want you here” and „You are not Romanians,” turning their freedom to express disagreement with a legally organised event into an incitement to hatred and discrimination on sexual orientation grounds. To justify their act of hooliganism, the militants sang the Romanian national anthem and Orthodox chants, and used religious symbols (icons) as well as fascist ones (the Nazi salute). The Deputy Director of the Museum, Mr Mihai Gheorghiu, attended the event but, despite his professional responsibilities, failed to make a stand against the militants or take the appropriate measures so that the cultural event can continue orderly and uninterruptedly.
Even though Museum Director Virgil Nitulescu made an emergency call on 112 asking for police intervention, and even though ACCEPT Association had signalled, prior to the event, verbally and in writing, the need for police protection at that evening’s show, the police and gendarmerie workers who arrived at the cinema following the 112 call did not intervene to put an end to the far-right militants’ bullying and incitement to hatred against LGBTs. „Under the guise of neutrality, in the past two years this type of non-intervention has become common response on the part of those supposed to know and enforce laws in Romania. Moreover, the Police, the Gendarmerie and the Prosecutor General fail to take measures for identifying, pursuing and apply penal sanctions to aggressors and the organisations which support them. Such violent incidents are by no means singular, and the response of the authorites is both ineffective and unprofessional,” maintains lawyer Iustina Ionescu.
The signing organisations call on:
1. The Ministry of Administration and Internal Affairs and the Prosecutor General of Romania to investigate the extremist manifestation which took place at the MRP on 20th February, as well as the response of police forces in hate crime circumstances;
2. The Ministry of Culture to urgently dismiss MRP Deputy Director Mihai Gheorghiu for failing to perform the administrative duties corresponding to his position;
3. The Romanian Gendarmerie to investigate the non-intervention of the gendarmerie workers deployed to site, to apply the corresponding disciplinary sanctions, and to identify the perpetrators who disrupted public order and sanction them accordingly.
ActiveWatch – Media Monitoring Agency
ACCEPT Association, the first human rights organization in Romania to plead before the European Court of Justice based in Luxemburg (ECJ), has been invited on Wednesday, January 23rd, to state its case for the clarification of the Romanian anti-discrimination law, taking into account the Council Directive 2000/78/EC of November 27, 2000 regarding equal treatment in employment and occupation.
This clarification is necessary, considering the allegations made by George Becali in 2010, when he stated that “Not even if I had to close down the Steaua Club would I accept a homosexual on the team”. At that time, the National Council for Combating Discrimination (CNCD), notified by ACCEPT, interpreted the discrimination implied in this statement as harassment and violation of the right to dignity, sanctioning Mr. Becali with a warning. At the same time, though, CNCD considered that this was not a situation involving Steaua Club as a potential employer or one to have any impact on employment. CNCD did not identify the connexion between Mr. Becali and the Steaua Club, in spite of Mr. Becali’s notoriety as head of Steaua Club and the fact that the Club has never dissociated itself from the public statements of its owner. The CNCD decision has been an alarming one, especially that the studies made by the Council itself prove that homosexuals are the vulnerable group which is the most exposed to discrimination in Romania.
ACCEPT, considering that the discrimination facts of this complaint were employment related and that the warning penalty was not an adequate one, has contested the CNCD decision. During the proceedings, ACCEPT asked the Bucharest Court of Appeal to request further clarifications from the European Court of Justice regarding the way in which the EU standards on discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment should be interpreted.