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Latvia

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Anti-Semitism

Government sources estimated that between 4,400 and 8,100 Jewish residents live in the country. There were no reports of anti-Semitic attacks against individuals, although there were public references to stereotypes on the internet by some fringe groups. The leadership of the Jewish community stated that relations with the government were generally positive. The government provided financial support to Jewish history, religious, and cultural institutions.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, most of the annual commemoration of Latvian Legionnaires who fought in German Waffen SS units against the Soviet army in World War II was canceled. Organizers converted the annual memorial march into an all-day wreath-laying event. As in recent years, turnout continued to decline, and the event received less attention, but at least one parliamentarian from the right-wing National Alliance party attended. Organizers aired a short film on television portraying the Legionnaires’ actions as defending Latvia and making no mention of Nazis.

On July 4, President Egils Levits, Jewish community representatives, government officials, and foreign diplomats attended the Holocaust commemoration ceremony in Riga. The ceremony included a limited number of invitees and was closed to the public due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

Members of National/Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups

NGOs representing minority groups stated that discrimination and harassment of national minorities, including what they considered hate speech, remained underreported to authorities. Through September the ombudsman did not receive any written complaints of racial discrimination, although he did receive six complaints of ethnic discrimination. ECRI in 2019 heard from NGOs, minority representatives, and the ombudsman that victims of hate speech often did not report incidents to police because they distrusted the willingness and ability of police to investigate these cases effectively.

Through August the State Security Service initiated three criminal cases for incitement of social hatred and enmity.

The Romani community continued to face widespread societal discrimination, high levels of unemployment, and illiteracy. The government continued integration and awareness programs in support of the Roma, though some community members expressed concern that the support was inconsistent. The Central Statistical Bureau reported that 4,891 Roma lived in the country.

Lithuania

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community consisted of approximately 4,000 persons. There were reports of anti-Semitism on the internet and in public.

On January 13, an unidentified man inside the parliament building approached the chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, addressed her as “little Jew girl,” and said that there was no home for her in Lithuania. In response to a request by the chair, the prosecutor’s office opened an investigation into the incident. No charges were filed.

On February 16 and March 11, nationalist parties sought to rally supporters at marches commemorating the country’s independence. During the February event, approximately 1,000 persons marched through Vilnius chanting and carrying banners with images of Jonas Noreika, an anti-Soviet resistance fighter who collaborated with the Nazis and played a role in the atrocities in the country during the Holocaust. On March 11, a similar procession of approximately 200 persons took place.

On October 8, the government-funded Genocide and Resistance Research Center of Lithuania posted on its Facebook page a statement commemorating the 110th birthday of Noreika. It celebrated Noreika as having opposed the Soviet and Nazi occupations. It did not refer to Noreika’s collaboration with the Nazis or his participation in Nazi atrocities. Nor did it acknowledge his public writings, which included a pamphlet promoting anti-Semitic views.

On May 20, Member of Parliament Audrys Simas made a hand gesture during a committee meeting that resembled a Nazi salute. The incident prompted the Lithuanian Jewish Community to call for an investigation. The parliamentary ethics and procedures committee investigated the matter and concluded that Simas violated the state code of behavior for politicians. Simas apologized for his actions and claimed he had raised his hand in order to cast a vote and had not intended his hand gesture as a Nazi salute.

On June 26, the anniversary of a massacre of Lithuanian Jews during the Holocaust, a monument in central Vilnius of a Jewish historical figure, Dr. Zemach Shabad, was vandalized with white paint or acid. A bust of Elijahu ben Solomon Zalman, known as the Vilna Gaon, was vandalized with white paint or acid on June 26 and again on August 3. Police launched pretrial investigations. The foreign minister and the mayor of Vilnius condemned the acts.

Police had instructions to take pre-emptive measures against illegal activities, giving special attention to maintaining order on specific historical dates and certain religious or cultural holidays.

Spain

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community numbered approximately 40,000 to 50,000 persons.

The law considers denial and justification of genocide to be a crime if it incites violence, with penalties that range from one to four years in prison.

The Observatory for Religious Freedom and Conscience reported that during 2019 there were three instances of religiously motivated aggression targeting Jews, all cases of attacks against Jewish property.

According to the Observatory of Anti-Semitism of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain, anti-Semitic incidents included hate speech on social media and anti-Semitic graffiti. In May a regional court in Ceuta sentenced a man convicted of inciting hatred against Israel and Jewish communities on social networks to a one-year imprisonment (suspended due to lack of prior convictions), a fine, and a three-year prohibition from working in educational or sports vocations. In mid-March the observatory noted an increase in anti-Semitic speech on social media, including blaming Jews for creating the COVID-19 pandemic.

There were multiple instances of anti-Semitic graffiti. On September 9, the Cartagena Association for Historic Memory denounced the defacement with swastikas, stars of David, and “Jews out” graffiti of a municipal monument dedicated to Spanish Republicans from Cartagena who fled to France after the Spanish Civil War and were subsequently deported to Nazi concentration camps. In January a building at Alfonso X the Wise University in Villanueva de la Canada was defaced with graffiti that read, “I command, kill Jews” and a swastika. A wall at a nearby park was defaced with swastikas and graffiti that read, “free Palestine” and “kill a Jew.”

In February during separate carnival celebrations, participants dressed as Nazis and Holocaust victims during town parades. In Badajoz a 160-member group paraded dressed in suits split down the middle of half Nazi soldier and half concentration camp prisoner, choreographed to march and dance together to pop music. Props included a tank, metal fences, and a banner that displayed a swastika and Star of David together and signaled the gateway to the Auschwitz camp. In Campo de Criptana, a 130-member group dressed as Jewish prisoners, Nazi officers, and women in red coats akin to costumes from the movie Schindlers List and danced to disco music with props that included a gas-chamber float embellished with two crematorium chimneys. The Israeli embassy in Spain condemned the Campo de Criptana parade, stating it made a “mockery of the six million Jews killed by the Nazis.” The Campo de Criptana City Council also issued a statement condemning the parade. Both groups of participants stated their intention was to pay tribute to Holocaust victims.

Government institutions promoted religious pluralism, integration, and understanding of Jewish communities and history, but their efforts did not reach all of the country’s autonomous regions. Following a July 20 meeting with the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain, First Vice President Carmen Calvo announced that the government would employ the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s Working Definition of Anti-Semitism. This move reaffirmed the country’s 2016 vote to endorse the working definition under the previous government.

Members of National/Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups

In July the interior minister issued the Action Protocol for Law Enforcement Agencies on Hate Crimes, which seeks to guarantee the equality of and prevent the discrimination against vulnerable groups based on, inter alia, national origin and ethnicity. The protocol orders law enforcement officers to avoid the use of terms or expressions that may be perceived as offensive or pejorative. For example, law enforcement officers are instructed to avoid using racially based word to address individuals belonging or appearing to belong to minority groups. The protocol followed the Interior Ministry’s January 2019 action plan to protect vulnerable groups from abuse through increased training for security forces to identify hate crimes; digital tools to identify and counteract hate speech on social media; an increase in coordinating efforts with human rights NGOs; increasing attention for victims of hate crimes; and amplifying the legal response to these incidents.

The Ministry of the Interior reported 515 hate crimes linked to racism (20 percent of the total) in 2019, an increase of 20.8 percent from 2018. The regions of Catalonia, Melilla, Navarra, and the Basque Country had the highest numbers of hate crimes according to the ministry’s data.

During the state of alarm, some civil society organizations noted the Law on the Protection of Citizen Security was applied inconsistently and arbitrarily, with law enforcement officers disproportionately stopping and sanctioning persons belonging to racial and ethnic minority groups as well as immigrants. The report Racism and Xenophobia during the State of Alarm in Spain released in June by the NGO Rights International Spain noted a spike in racist speech and actions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The report registered 70 instances of alleged racism during confinement committed by National Police, Civil Guard, the Basque regional police, and the Barcelona (municipal) Urban Guard. The report alleged the Ministry of the Interior did not initiate “prompt, exhaustive, and effective investigations into all acts of brutality and excessive use of force by the Security Forces.” The report cited numerous media reports of verbal attacks against those of Chinese or Asian decent during the state of alarm, including blaming individuals for the COVID-19 epidemic. The Gitano Secretariat Foundation (FSG) reported the dissemination of numerous anti-Roma hate messages via social media and WhatsApp during the state of alarm, such as messages warning individuals not to go to markets where Romani families sold their wares.

The UN special rapporteur for minority issues in a March 9 report stated that, although authorities took positive steps to train police to reduce racial profiling, minority groups still reported incidents of harassment, profiling, intimidation, and occasional violence. Marginalized groups including immigrants, persons of African descent, and Roma told the rapporteur they mistrusted and feared police and the judiciary.

In the country’s first investigation for glorifying white supremacist terrorism, on September 11, Catalan regional police arrested two individuals in the towns of Lleida and Alicante (Valencia) for inciting hatred against various groups of foreigners, glorifying racist terrorism, and calling for attacks inspired by the massacre that took place in Christchurch, New Zealand.

In February the European Commission noted that immigrants from outside the EU and Roma continued to face integration challenges. Persons not born in the EU faced a nearly four times greater risk of severe material deprivation than natives and were considerably more exposed to precarious working conditions and to in-work poverty. In his February 7 report following his visit to the country, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights expressed concern that 72 percent of Romani, immigrant, and economically disadvantaged children studied in de facto segregated schools that had lower assessment scores and higher rates of grade repetition, failure, and dropping out. The UN special rapporteur for minority issues also expressed concern about school segregation affecting the Romani community, specifically public schools in Seville, which had a 90-percent Romani student population.

The Romani community is the largest minority group in the country, with an estimated 750,000 persons. Three representatives of Romani heritage were elected to the national congress in November 2019 elections, down from four elected in the April 2019 elections. The FSG reported significant integration challenges for the Romani community, including a high poverty rate (86 percent live below the poverty line, with 46 percent in extreme poverty), 52 percent unemployment rate (60 percent among Romani women), and 64 percent dropout rate for children in secondary education. The UN special rapporteur for minority issues stated the regulation of street trade, a central economic activity for Roma, was arbitrarily applied to Roma in different areas of the country and sometimes resulted in discriminatory treatment. According to a November 2019 FSG report, there were 334 cases of discrimination against Roma in 2018, 102 more than in 2017.

According to the FSG, 44 percent of Romani families, typically dependent on daily wages, struggled to afford food during the March to June state of alarm. The FSG reported significant educational challenges for Romani children, including de facto school segregation in many cities and curriculums that either excluded the Romani community or promoted stereotypes. Lack of access to internet connections at home prevented many Romani children from participating in remote learning due to the state of alarm.

The UN special rapporteur for minority issues expressed concern about the increase in Catalonia of hate speech against Catalans as a minority group in social and other media as a result of the protests following the October 2019 sentencing of 12 Catalan politicians and civil society activists. The special rapporteur also reported that politicians and others outside the region had begun to paint Catalans as traitors who had to be dealt with severely, at times using violent language. The national ombudsman rejected the categorization of the Catalan-speaking population as a minority.

The report For Rent? Racism and Xenophobia in the Housing Market published in October by the NGO Provivienda noted discrimination in the housing rental market against immigrants and racial and ethnic minorities in Madrid, Barcelona, Alicante, and Granada. According to the report, seven of 10 of the real estate agencies contacted permitted clients to discriminate explicitly, and the other three permitted subtler forms of discrimination.

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