A Flemish court sends a clear message: racism has no place in our society, including against Roma! (en français)

 

On Monday the 7th of October, the Ghent Criminal Court sentenced 12 people following their racist assault against a Roma family. This decision is a first in Belgium, where antigypsyist attitudes and discourses against Roma are generally downplayed or ignored.

The convicts are a group of supporters of the Ghent Football Club, who broke into a building occupied by a Roma family with several young children, back in November 2017. Armed with sticks, stones and Bengal fires, their ambition was clearly to destroy and to terrify the occupants.

The Court ruled that this event could not in any case be linked to a matter of freedom of expression, because it was indeed a racist crime, also tinged with incitement to hatred. The verdict of the judge sums up the situation as follow: "The accused stated that they only wanted to make a political statement, but this goes against the facts. They were particularly aggressive and intimidating. There was nothing close to a peaceful demonstration. Latent racism and increased Roma violence certainly influenced the attack”.

However, the sentences remain rather light compared to the crime and to its consequences on the emotional and psychological state of the victims. Among the main actors and instigators of this attack, one was condemned to a six-month conditional sentence, and the other, having shown repentance, received a hundred hours of community service. Of the fifteen defendants, nine were sentenced to an autonomous probation sentence of one year, in which the suspension is linked to the fulfilment of a number of conditions. For a few of them, one of the conditions is to go and visit the Caserne Dossin in Mechelen, which was a transit camp during the Second World War and where hundreds of Roma were locked up before being deported to Auschwitz. In the opinion of Patrick Charlier, Director of UNIA, "this type of sanction is entirely relevant. The Caserne Dossin illustrates with words and images what happens when hatred and contempt take over”.  In addition, the victims received a compensation of 500 euros.