Europe calls for “more human rights training” for Portuguese police

The Council of Europe has called for more human rights training for Portuguese police.

In a wide-ranging list of proposals for the country’s next census (in 2021), the Council has stressed that it is time to upgrade the perception of Portugal’s ethnic make-up.

Says TSF radio, the council found that Portuguese authorities “continue to fail to formally recognise that Portugal even has national minorities” beyond the traditional one of around 50,000 Roma gypsies.

Indeed it has already recommended that the next census have a question on people’s ethnic origin, but the Institute of National Statistics is against the idea.

The Council has countered that it’s in the interests of ethnic minorities to be identified, so that they can enjoy “visibility” with better understanding (by authorities) of their social situation.

In other words – whether INE likes it or not – the Council is pushing for a question in the census on people’s ‘mother tongue’, and the language they use most, in order to get a better picture of Portugal’s linguistic diversity.

But back to the police – in the news recently for cases in which a number of people have alleged racial bias.

Says the Council, “the perception persists that Portugal is largely homogeneous, even though ethnic, linguistic, religious and cultural diversity clearly exist”.

Police particularly need a “significant increase in training when it comes to fundamental human rights”.

Says TSF, Council investigators conclude that both the PSP and GNR “have very little understanding of the social contexts in which they operate”.

Another moot point is that there have been no condemnations for ‘hate crimes’ nationally – largely because the Public Ministry has a “much too limited definition of what a hate crime is”.

Indeed, a cursory look at social media commentary in Portugal was enough to show the Council that the Internet is full of discussions that would fall into the (international) category of a hate crime.

As a result, civil society has come to believe that ‘anything goes’: “there is a climate of impunity” which needs “effective investigation”, says the Council, advocating “more powers for those who check” on hate crimes, namely for the Commission for Equality and Against Racial Discrimination which it would like to see given “total independence”, as well as increased power for the Provedoria de Justiça (national Ombudsman).

Predictably, the Council’s report has concluded that discrimination against gypsies continues in Portugal, with only 44% of gypsy children completing compulsory schooling, and 37% of gypsy families living in ‘shanty-type’ dwellings spread around 70 municipalities.