For two years, Gert-Jan Segers (ChristenUnie) and Kathalijne Buitenweg (GroenLinks) worked on their proposal to punish hat crimes more severely. On Monday, they will present their bill to make it possible to punish crimes with a discriminatory purpose more severely. Segers calls that the proposal coincides with worldwide Black Lives Matter protests against racism and discrimination “a combination of circumstances”, but above all a first step.
“During this period many eyes open. Also for me,” said Segers. Buitenweg: “I think that the House of Representatives paid too little attention to discrimination against people of African descent.”
The new law is necessary, according to Segers and Buitenweg, because at the moment a discrimination fact is not included separately in the event of destruction or violent crime.
Buitenweg: “Any form of violence is traumatic. But violence because of someone’s identity has an extra impact, both on the victim and on society as a whole. The motive matters. There is now no arrow to draw or a judge there in a judgment takes into account. “
Buitenweg and Segers have been working on the proposal since 2018. Among other things, they saw how Jewish middle-classers were confronted with anti-Semitic violence, such as at the Hacarmel restaurant. This Jewish restaurant in Amsterdam had to deal with vandalism several times.
Segers: “Anti-Semitism is very difficult to register with the declaration. Victims have to do their utmost to get it on a declaration form. An attack on an individual because he is part of a minority is so bad that we want an aggravating ground there occurs. “
Discrimination is lost when reported to the police
Research by the Scientific Research and Documentation Center (WODC) shows that things already go wrong with the declaration. Discrimination is often not registered by the police and does not end up as such with the Public Prosecution Service. Also, the systems in which the offenses are registered do not connect and special discrimination officers are not given time to perform their work.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office’s overview of discrimination figures shows that in 2019 it ultimately led to only 47 convictions in cases with a discrimination aspect. Moreover, the judge can already increase the sentence if there is an offense with a discriminatory purpose. However, in the opinion of the authors of the law, that happens little in practice.
Segers and Buitenweg hope to shake up the entire criminal justice system with their proposal. Buitenweg: “The systems are indeed not well coordinated. We see that the discrimination aspect during criminal proceedings often disappears from the picture. This poses two major problems: it does not give satisfaction to the victim and we fail to confirm a standard that discrimination is not acceptable. “
She expects that the entire chain, from declaration to judicial decision, will be forced to take it anyway by including discrimination as a separate criminal aggravation. Buitenweg: “I can well imagine that we will also enforce motions and amendments during the legislative process.”
Segers: “Incorporating discrimination into law as a separate aggravation of the law forces the judge to consider the aspect of discrimination. In this way, we force the entire chain to register discrimination in any way. This bill tells every minority that we will give them extra protection. “
‘Discrimination on the basis of color is insufficiently mentioned’
Since Segers and Buitenweg first announced their plans to punish hatecrimes more severely, about the need for an increased sentence by citing examples of discrimination based on sexual preference or anti-Semitism.
The overview of discrimination figures from the Public Prosecution Service shows that in 2019, offenses with a discrimination aspect were in 59 percent of the cases discrimination based on race. Of these, 21 percent of cases involved discrimination against people of African descent.
Segers and Buitenweg see that they have not mentioned this enough in recent years. Buitenweg: “I think that the House of Representatives has paid too little attention to discrimination against people of African descent. It is good to also explicitly mention discrimination based on skin color.”
Increase in sentence first step, continue to speak out against racism ‘
Segers: “It could be that recent incidents, such as with Hacarmel or two men in Arnhem who went hand in hand and were attacked, were striking examples. During this period, many eyes open to racism and discrimination in our society. That also counts for me.”
After George Floyd’s death, he sees people rise and talk about “the profound pain of racism”. He sees the bill as a first step. A step that must compel the police, the Public Prosecution Service and the judge to listen to the stories. “They will have to listen, even if it is difficult to prove. What we are saying now is: we see you, we hear you.”
As far as Segers is concerned, it does not stop there. “We must continue to speak out loud about equal treatment of minorities, for example about the change that Zwarte Piet must undergo. We need everything in the fight against racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination.”