Can a democratic state´s institution be responsible for encouraging hate crimes?

Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

A hate crime is an offence where the perpetrator selects a victim because of the victim´s real or perceived belonging to a specific group (race, faith, gender, age, disability, opinions, etc.). Discrimination refers to an act of exclusion on the basis of the victim´s real or perceived belonging to a specific group. In plain language: some people do not like some other people for who they are and actively show it. Different states have different legal mechanisms to deal with them.  But it is important to remember that both phenomena — hate crimes and discrimination — are illegal.

Using these tentative definitions, it can be concluded that an individual or an organisation, especially in the position of power, that orders to infringe, en mass, fundamental rights of a group of people on the basis of their skin color, commits if not a hate crime then at minimum an act of discrimination.

In January 2010, the Spanish Ministry of Interior issued a secret Circular 1/2010 that essentially ordered the police to round up and detain “preventively” anyone who on spot could not prove their legal presence in Spain. So, basically, anybody who ran out of home to buy a soda without an ID could end up in a cell? Not quite anybody. The Circular clearly was not directed at the Spanish people. Nor was it directed at foreigners who were perceived to be in the country legally, i.e. Northern Europeans. Or any Europeans for that matter. It was most certainly directed at persons perceived as “non-Spanish,” that is, the Circular of the Ministry of Interior in essence ordered the police to racially profile people and deprive individuals of liberty, as well as due process guarantees, without as much as a reasonable suspicion. (Surely, a suspicion that every black person is in Spain illegally cannot be reasonable?!)

Lawyers could not even begin to count how many things were wrong with this document (secret law?). Evidently, not just human rights champions, but the very recipients of the order – the police — were appalled. The Spanish police syndicate went to court asking it to annul the Circular 1/2010, See: http://www.sup.es/es/contenido.asp?id=C0BDFB0CA8B74E028DD53B9E8D868300.

Perhaps, it is too far-fetched to suggest that the Spanish Ministry of Interior is guilty of inciting hate crimes, without the court decision at least. But this secret order to round up, incarcerate and deport non-Europeans certainly brings about some disturbing historic memories. And if the courts do not find this act illegal, then it may be high time to revise some of the laws and definitions.

To follow on this issue, please visit the website of the CIDH Pro Igual.

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