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Was refusal to let Togo national onto bus motivated by racial prejudice? – HFHR intervenes

The HFHR sent a letter to the Regional Prosecutor in Warsaw requesting special attention to the case of a Togo national who was refused to board a bus. As follows from media reports a driver’s conducts might have been motivated by racial prejudice.

“He surely has a knife on him and is a terrorist”

The Togo national wanted to travel from Warsaw to Berlin, had a ticket and all the necessary documents. His closest persons say that the bus’s driver did say “he surely has a knife on him and is a terrorist”. The police arrive at the scene, but their intervention was futile because police officers said they could not have ordered the driver to take the passenger with him. Representatives of the bus company say that the reason for the refusal to provide a transport service was a breach of terms and conditions and regulations of transportation of passengers and goods and the passenger did not want to pay for excess baggage. The family of the Togo national, who was present during the incident, does not confirm this version of events.

HFHR intervention

The HFHR has requested the Regional Prosecutor to pay particular attention to this case and examine whether the incident met the criteria of a prohibited act, including insulting a person because of race (Article 257 of the Criminal Code) or deliberately refusing to provide a service for no good cause (Article 138 of the Petty Offences Code).

“There is no justification for discriminatory conduct motivated by aversion and hatred of a race”. The seriousness of the problem of racism and xenophobia has been recognised by the international community, which resulted in the adoption of a number of acts of international law that oblige states to prohibit and prevent discrimination based on race, skin colour, national and ethnic origin”, reads the HFHR’s letter.

“It is difficult to imagine a situation, in which a refusal to provide a service to a person could be justified by the person’s race. The selection of clients based on any discriminatory and unjustified criterion must be deemed inadmissible”, says Jarosław Jagura, the HFHR’s lawyer.

“Preventing a person from using a service due to their race runs against the “equality act”, under which it is prohibited to treat natural persons unequally due to their race in respect of access to and conditions of using services offered publicly, to which services provided by a bus company also belong”, adds Mr Jagura.

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