The experience of a Romani woman at a store in Riga
A young Romani woman went to a supermarket in central Riga with some friends. The girl had a backpack and a carry bag with library books. Upon entering the store, the security asked the girl to leave her backpack and bag in the store’s lockers. The girl kindly agreed and left her belongings in the locker, but noticed that the guard did not ask anyone else to leave their belongings. The girl searched for a bag of chips that her friend had asked her to buy and saw that another store guard was following her as she walked through the store. The girl found the chips and went to the cashier. After paying, the guard asked the girl to show her pockets and receipt.
What to do in a similar situation?
Ethnic profiling is a situation where a person is considered a potential offender solely based on their skin color, ethnic background, or religious belief. This is direct discrimination and is illegal.
In such cases, the person has the right to file a complaint with the Ombudsman’s Office and go to court. The Ombudsman may initiate an investigation and, upon finding a violation of the prohibition of discrimination, require the offender to stop the discriminatory practice. On the other hand, if the person goes to court and recognizes a violation of the prohibition of discrimination, the court may award non-pecuniary damages.
For advice on how to proceed in specific situations, a person can contact the Ombudsman’s Office or the Latvian Centre for Human Rights.
Why is it important to report hate crime?
The store guard does not have the right to inspect customers’ bags or other belongings by himself. Such powers are only held by state police officers and can only take place on the basis of objective suspicions of a violation. In a similar situation, a person has the right to demand that the police be called to the place of the incident. Similarly, the person can file a complaint about the guard’s actions with the store management and request compensation or an apology.
Discriminatory treatment of individuals based on such grounds as skin color, national or ethnic origin, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, etc. is prohibited.
It is important to report this in order to defend one’s rights, receive compensation for the damage caused, and stop the existence of anti-legal practices.
The Ombudsman’s Office
Baznīcas ielā 25,
Free of charge consultation:
The Latvian Centre for Human Rights
(Latvijas Cilvēktiesību centrs)
Skolas ielā 21, 609C,
T.: (+371) 67039290
This informative material is created as part of the project “Towards a more tolerant society: information, education, support and cooperation.” The project is funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA and the Norwegian grant programme “Active Citizens Fund”. Make Room Europe and the Latvian Centre for Human Rights are fully responsible for the content of this material.