Monday, September 20

The Prosecutor’s Office calls for a law to fine discrimination that is not a hate crime

The Office of the Prosecutor asks to approve a law of equal treatment that includes not only preventive measures to combat racism or lgtbiphobia but also administrative sanctions against discriminatory acts that do not exceed the criminal offense barrier. The proposal is included in the 2020 report of the service against hate crimes and discrimination of the Barcelona Prosecutor’s Office, a pioneer in Spain and led by the prosecutor Miguel Ángel Aguilar.

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Broadly speaking, the regulation would mean extending the Catalan equal treatment law to the entire State, which in Aguilar’s opinion is very positive since it adequately specifies the punishable behaviors and was approved last year with the almost unanimity of all the political forces of the Parliament. Ciudadanos and PP only abstained and voted against some points.

The prosecutor Aguilar proposes that the new legislation establish a catalog of sanctions and another of infractions that includes all the discriminatory conduct that can be prosecuted and its administrative response “according to its seriousness and governed by a principle of proportionality.” The one in charge of imposing them would be an autonomous body “as independent as possible,” Aguilar emphasizes.

Not all discriminatory acts should carry a financial fine. Some sanctions, explains the prosecutor, can be oriented “to the reeducation of the offender”, and can also include formulas for reparation and compensation to the victims at the expense of the offender. In addition, the regulations must provide for the possibility of resolving the administrative file through mediation, conciliation, arbitration and reparation mechanisms for discriminated persons.

The Catalan law, among the more than 40 punished behaviors, penalizes as minor offenses, between 300 and 10,000 euros, the songs or expressions “vexatious, slanderous or threatening” both in public space and on social networks. Fines can rise to half a million euros in the event of a discriminatory dismissal or if personnel selection criteria are applied that exclude race, religion, sex or sexual orientation.

In addition to the fines, it is also foreseen that those responsible are prohibited from receiving subsidies or contracting with the administration. And in any case, they can be replaced by activities in service of the community or in support of victims of discrimination. The sanctions are aimed at preventing, deterring and correcting the prejudices that discrimination has caused.

As explained by the Secretary of Equality of the Department of Equality and Feminisms of the Generalitat, Mireia Mata, the Ministry is finalizing the implementation of the sanctioning regulation that provides for the law and the appointment of a president of the Organization for the Protection and Promotion of Equality of Treatment and Non-discrimination, which will be the autonomous body in charge of mediating and investigating complaints that do not go through criminal proceedings. The entity will have its own staff and will also have external advice from experts on non-discrimination.

The department’s goal, Mata adds, is for both the regulations and the agency to be fully operational early next year. For this, we are also working so that the body has a budget allocation in the draft accounts that the Government prepares for 2022. “We want it to be launched as soon as possible,” he highlights. Mata also indicates that the legal services have already begun to address another of the requests of the Prosecutor’s Office, the legal authorization so that the Public Ministry can refer directly to the Generalitat cases of discrimination that do not end in the courts.

As of today, two regulations are still in process in Congress that partially contemplate the requests made by the Prosecutor’s Office in its last report, but whose approval has no date. The discrepancies between government partners caused the PSOE and United We Can (UP) to present both projects separately. The so-called ‘Zerolo law’, registered alone by the PSOE, provides for the creation of an independent commissioner to control all types of discrimination and contemplates the possibility of sanctions, but in a less precise way than the Catalan norm. In the case of the trans and LGTBI law sponsored by UP, sanctions are also contemplated but limited to this type of discrimination.

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