Brussels (Brussels Morning) The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, published a report on Wednesday warning of increasing level of racism and the persistence of related discrimination in Portugal.
Mijatović expressed her concern about the increase in racially motivated hate crimes and hate speech targeting in particular Roma, people of African descent and persons perceived as foreigners in Portugal.
Racism in mainstream
She urged the authorities to “firmly and publicly condemn all instances of hate speech, and politicians to refrain from using or tolerating racist rhetoric”. Her report coincides with the emergence and rise of the anti-immigrant, populist party Chega. Founded two years ago, the party has since found its way into the political mainstream, having gained a seat in parliament.
Mijatović welcomed the steps the government has taken to date in tackling discrimination against the Roma, but recommended that the measures be enhanced. At the same time, the Commissioner expressed deep concern regarding the presence of racism in the nation’s police forces.
“The Portuguese authorities should apply a policy of zero tolerance towards any manifestation of racism in the police”, Mijatović stated. She also recommended improving human rights training for police officers and suggested recruitment procedures and selection criteria be adapted to promote access of persons belonging to minority groups.
Mijatović also commented on the processing of sexual offences and domestic violence, urging the authorities to take measures to ensure such crimes are adequately investigated and prosecuted. She said sentencing should be commensurate with the gravity of offences and sufficiently dissuasive.
She commended the government for the steps it has taken to ensure children who witness domestic violence are considered primarily as victims, and accorded protection. Mijatović concluded by recommending that lawmakers further amend the current legal definition of rape to ensure that it is entirely based on the absence of free consent of the victim.