Social Issues

Legal tools against racism in Spain: sufficient but seldom used

Madrid, May 24 (EFE).- In 2021, the last year with official consolidated figures, security forces registered 1,802 hate crimes and incidents in Spain, 35 percent of them due to racism and xenophobia, but only a fraction led to convictions.

That same year, 91 convictions were handed down for hate crimes or in which hate was the aggravating factor, and 30 percent of them with racist motivations.

This contradiction reopens the debate on whether there are enough tools to combat racism and how they are applied when these episodes occur, such as the one suffered Sunday by Brazilian Real Madrid player Vinicius Junior in Valencia.

These events led the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office in Valencia to open investigative proceedings and to the arrest of three young people aged 18 to 21 on Tuesday.

The government was blunt and in the press conference after the Council of Ministers: Spokeswoman Isabel Rodriguez said she condemned the insults hurled at Vinicius, adding that in Spain such behavior “is persecuted and punished.”

“We have the mechanisms to persecute them in all areas, not just sports. There are those who justify this behavior, we have seen it and it is not possible to be neutral; we must be blunt and it must be said that we are anti-racist because we combat these behaviors and work to eradicate them”, Rodriguez said.

EFE contacted lawyers specialized in the matter and they said Spanish legislation provides sufficient tools to combat this type of crime, adding that there is a lack of will to apply them.

Specifically, the sanctions and penalties contemplated in cases of hate crimes can be through administrative channels, through Law 19/2007 of July 11 against Violence, Racism, Xenophobia and Intolerance in Sport, applied by the State Anti-Violence Commission. It was also applied by criminal means in application of article 510 of the Penal Code, which punishes hate crimes with one to four years in prison.

In addition, in each province there is a Prosecutor’s Office against hate crimes and discrimination governed by a circular of the State Attorney General’s Office of 2007.

“There are plenty of tools, the legislation is well done. There is jurisprudence, and the Supreme Court has made it clear,” lawyer Oscar Vicario told EFE. He was speaking about the decision of the High Court to confirm the 32-month prison sentence for four Catalan nationalists for hate crimes by attacking volunteers from the Spanish Soccer Team.

Vicario said this type of crime requires proof of the facts, authorship and racial motivation and has considered that Vinicius’ case is “clear.”

“A mass of people harassed him, 100, 200, 500 people, we don’t know, but for now we have to try to do something with the Penal Code in hand,” he said.

The lawyer said the Barcelona Prosecutor’s Office was the pioneer in this type of case when soccer player Samuel Eto’o played for Barcelona in the early 2000s and received racist insults and shouts imitating those of a monkey.

On that occasion, perpetrators could not be identified and the case was closed.

However, in the case of the racist chants suffered by Athletic Club player Inaki Williams in a match in 2020 at the Espanyol stadium, a trial date is still awaited.

“It is a matter of willingness and courage to want to apply the laws, those of the administrative sphere and the Penal Code,” Vicario said.

Despite the existence of sufficient legal tools, the feeling of an “impunity scenario” is high, he said.

LaLiga filed nine complaints for racist insults against Vinicius, three of which were filed by the Prosecutor’s Office, in one case for not being able to identify the perpetrators and in others because it understood that the facts did not have the “criminal dimension that is postulated.”

This same reason was why another employer’s complaint was filed for the racist insults received by the Athletic Club player Nico Williams in a Betis-Athletic match, in March 2022, since the Seville Hate Prosecutor’s Office considered that “despite their incorrectness, they do not exceed the line of criminal offense.”


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