Updates from April, 2012 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 8:57 pm on April 22, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Anti-discrimination “crisis cards”: know your rights and defend them 

    Low awareness about one´s rights and opportunities for redress for rights violations can be a serious obstacle to attaining equality. Unfortunately, groups which are most likely to experience discrimination are also the ones which are least likely to know their rights and of the existing remedies. Thus, despite considerable evidence of discrimination and harassment against minorities, foreigners, and other vulnerable groups – in Spain as elsewhere, – reporting of discrimination is rather low. Known cases most probably present only a tip of the iceberg.

    In response to this problem, CIDH Pro Igual has developed anti-discrimination “crisis cards.” The AD “crisis cards” provide key information for foreigners, ethnic minorities, and other most likely victims of discrimination in Spain on steps to take if they experienced discrimination or harassment from public or private entities. The “crisis cards” are currently available on the Pro Igual website: http://www.cidh.es/ in EnglishSpanish, and  Romanian for downloading, printing, and sharing. In future, translations into other languages spoken by the principal minority and immigrant groups in Spain will be also available. In addition, Pro Igual will look into opportunities to disseminate this practice among other NGOs, as well as official bodies, and develop other thematic cards.

    USER INSTRUCTIONS: Each A4 sheet contains five cards that should be cut along the horizontal lines and folded in half, so they become a size of an average credit card. If desired, the cards can be also laminated and kept along with other cards in one´s wallet.

  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 9:58 am on April 15, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Pro Igual submission toward the OSCE Hate Crimes Report 2011 

    Recent CIDH Pro Igual submission for the OSCE Annual Report on Hate Crimes 2011 focuses on three main issues that are crucial for understanding and addressing hate crimes in Spain: 1) weak legislative framework against hate crimes, 2) increase in extreme right membership, and 3) infiltration of law enforcement by extreme right elements.

    The first issue is weak legislative framework for dealing with hate crimes and absence of the data on hate crimes. As covered in one of our earlier blog articles, the Spanish law against hate crimes is obsolete and ineffective. Adopted in 1995, the Spanish Penal Code does not even include the concept of “hate crimes.” The application of other relevant provisions is restrictive and inconsistent, resulting in an underestimated record of hate crimes within the judicial system and failing to deter hate crimes.

    The second issue is increasing number of adherents to extreme right organizations and their activism. In the past five years, the number of skinheads in Spain has more than tripled from c.3,000 to well over 10,000. Likewise, the number of neo-nazi, neo-fascist and other extreme right organizations and groups has nearly tripled from c.70 some five years ago to c.200 as of 2011. Their activism and appeal has intensified in the context of the economic crisis and rampant unemployment among the youths.

    The third issue is infiltration of the law enforcement agencies by elements sympathetic to extreme right ideology and/or hostile to immigration. Such infiltration has its roots in Spain´s past (the fascist dictatorship), but it has never been addressed and has been allowed to continue to this day. Disturbingly, some members of the Spanish police, Civil Guard and army themselves have been implicated in a number of high-profile hate crimes, or their cover up.

    All these factors contribute to a fertile climate for hate crimes and impunity for perpetrators. As a result, the number of racially-motivated hate crimes in Spain continues to steadily rise, while reporting, investigating and especially sentencing lag behind.

    To read/download the text of the Pro Igual submission to the OSCE Hate Crimes Report 2011, please click here or visit our website: http://www.cidh.es/

  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 2:02 pm on April 3, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Spain´s legal framework regarding hate crimes: obsolete and ineffective 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    According to some estimates, there are up to c.4000 hate crimes committed in Spain each year. However, the Spanish law fails to keep up with the scope and scale of those realities.

    The principal legislation used for prosecuting alleged hate crimes in Spain is the Penal Code adopted in 1995. Despite being progressive legislation for its time, it contains a number of serious shortcomings that compromise its effectiveness.

    Some examples:

    • There is no concept of “hate crimes” as such, which means the existing provisions, e.g. “prejudicial motive” in a crime, have to be stretched. This results in appeals and complaints of unconstitutionality and overbroad judicial interpretation, which in turn forces the courts to adopt very cautious interpretation of relevant provisions.
    • The clause of “provocation to hate” (Article 510 of the Penal Code) is vague and as a consequence is interpreted extremely narrowly: as provocation to a specific criminal act, against a concrete person/group, and the threat of violence must be “imminent” in order for a person making a “provocation” to be held responsible. The most recent example of such restrictive interpretation is found in a 2011 decision in a case concerning the distribution of anti-Roma brochures in the Badalona district of Barcelona.
    • Organizations lacking juridical personality do not fall under the scope of the Penal Code. This effectively exempts from responsibility the host of extremist neo-Nazi, neo-fascist and other ultra-right organizations (as happened for example in case of the infamous “Libreria Europe” in Barcelona) which are incidentally among the principal instigators of xenophobia. As of 2011, c.200 extreme right organizations were estimated to operate in Spain.
    • There is no clear definition of “weapons” in the Penal Code. Based on the established jurisprudence, the definition of a weapon is also rather restrictive: aside from fire arms, other “weapons” have to meet a host of criteria to be qualified as such. Media report that neo-Nazi gangs often attack their victims with baseball bats or using their heavy, metal-adorned boots, that is, objects that ordinarily are not regarded as weapons. And so they can effectively avoid charges of an “armed” assault under the law.

    The list of legal shortcomings could continue, but the point is clear: the Penal Code requires considerable revisions in order to be an effective tool for both sanctioning and dissuading hate crimes.

    Courts, however, are bound to apply the law that exists, not that should be. The sentences, few and far apart, have not been very convincing: usually suspended prison term, small fines or verbal admonitions. Application of racism/other bias as an aggravating motive of crimes has also been extremely limited, and as a consequence there is also an underestimated record of hate crimes within the judicial system. In addition, the Supreme Court has been criticized for failing to provide consistent judgments in order to establish clear juridical guidance for lower courts with regard to hate crimes.

    Therefore, even though there were some encouraging court decisions recently, for example, the dissolution of the neo-Nazi party Blood and Honor and of Hammerskin España, they are not enough to enforce the message that the Spanish state is taking hate crimes and their perpetrators seriously.

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