MPs want harsher action against discrimination in proposed hate crime law

Tweede Kamer
The Chairman's seat at the Tweede Kamerphoto: JanKranendonk / DepositPhotos

Parliamentarians Gert-Jan Segers (ChristenUnie) and Kathalijne Buitenweg (GroenLinks) presented a legislative proposal  to punish hate crimes more severely. The law is intended to force the police and Public Prosecutor to also consider possible discriminatory aspects of other crimes like vandalism, reports.

“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,” Buitenweg said to the newspaper. “The motive matters. There is currently no way to ascertain whether a judge takes that into account in a ruling.”

The two MPs started working on this law in 2018, prompted in part by attacks on kosher restaurant Ha Carmel in Amsterdam. “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 awful that we want aggravating grounds to apply to it,” Segers said to the newspaper.

According to the parliamentarians, research by the scientific research and documentation center WODC showed that discrimination is often not registered by the police and therefore does not end up as such with the Public Prosecution Service. And the systems on which separate offenses are registered do not connect.

Segers and Buitenweg hope that their proposal will shake things up in the criminal justice system. “The systems are indeed not well coordinated. We see that the discrimination aspect often disappears from the picture during the criminal process. 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.”

Their proposal should force the entire criminal justice chain, from declaration to court ruling, to take discrimination into account as a separate aggravating circumstance. “By including discrimination as a separate aggravation of punishment in law, the judge is forced to consider the aspect of discrimination. In this way, we force the entire chain to register discrimination at least. This bill tells every minority that we will give them extra protection,” Segers said.

After George Floyd’s fatal arrest in the United States, and the worldwide Black Lives Matter protests that followed, Segers noticed that people stood up to talk about “the profound pain of racism”, he said to the newspaper. “During this period, many eyes opened to racism and discrimination in our society. That also counts for me.” He sees their bill as a first step to compel the police, the Public Prosecutor and the courts to listen to these stories. “They will have to  listen, even if it is difficult to prove. What we are saying is: we see you, we hear you.”

“We must continue to speak out loud for equal treatment of minorities, for example about the changes that Zwarte Piet must undergo. We need everything in the fight against racism, antisemitism and discrimination,” Segers said.