Winter 2019 News from the Portuguese Association for Victim Support (APAV)

19 Feb, 2019

#respect battles: fight hate with respect | APAV’S Awareness Raising Campaign on Hate Crime and Hate Speech

There is an overall lack of awareness on hate crime and hate speech in Portugal and in Europe, both among professionals who work with victims and potential victims of these phenomena, but also within the general public. It I thus essential to raise the awareness of the general public, particularly vulnerable people to hate crime and hate speech, not only about the dynamics of these forms of crime ad discriminatory violence, but most importantly on the existing support structures.

Within the development of project Hate no More: training and awareness raising to combat hate crime and hate speech, co-financed by the European Commission under the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme, APAV joined efforts with a communications and marketing agency – CARMEN Young Network Group – and launched the campaign #Respect Battles: fight hate with respect.

CARMEN’s creative concept of the #Respect Battles campaign was based on the well-known rap battles, where musicians exchange insults in the form of music rhymes. Several Portuguese rappers were invited to take part in the campaign and challenged to write the lyrics for a battle, in which in spite of being faced with another rap singer they would be faced with a person representing some of the vulnerable groups to hate crime ad hate speech. They were additionally challenged, opposite of the “traditional” rap battles, to sing words of respect and acceptance.

The rappers Malabá, Ace, M7, Papillon and Estraca accepted the challenge and the result was the development of five videos, in which four focused a specific type of hate crime (crime against LGBTQ+ persons, crimes motivated by racial and ethnic hatred, crimes against migrants and refugees and crimes motivated by religious discrimination), and a fifth with lyrics about several negative perceptions that trigger hate and may lead to hate crimes.

The campaign was very well received by the media and APAV received several interview requests by newspapers, TV channels, radio, which was a great opportunity to widely disseminate the campaign and call upon Portuguese society to join the #respect battles movement. Besides the media, the campaign had high audience in social media networks such as Youtube, Facebook and Instagram. Only within these three platforms, the five videos of the campaign had more than 1 million views, being the most viewed of APAV’s campaigns ever.

#Respect Battles was also distinguished with the Rainbow Prize 2018 from ILGA Portugal (Prémio Arco-Íris 208), in a ceremony held in the Time Out Market in Lisbon, January 12th 2019. The ceremony counted with the presence of three of the rappers, who performed their respect battles live. The videos are subtitled in English, Italian and German and may be accessed here: youtube.com/user/APAVportugal

APAV’s Projects

Project Countr@ct: preventing and combatting online radicalisation

The Internet has become a critical tool for the functioning of modern society. One of the harmful effects of its use is the fast dissemination of terrorist and extreme violent messages. According to RAN, exposure to this type of content is believed to be critical to radicalisation. In fact, today’s Internet does not only allow for the dissemination of radical ideas but also for a social interaction around them. This provides recruiters more occasions to interact with people who would not otherwise be reachable, especially young people in whose lives the Internet has a prominent role. Through the Internet and taking advantage of its current social character, the radical propaganda can be adapted to touch upon the particular grievances of certain groups and, therefore, to be more efficient than it ever was.

The way propaganda is transmitted is vital. This propaganda usually reaches spaces where young people consume and share information, socialise and are socialised, using platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, WhatsApp, among others.

APAV, in a multi-stakeholder partnership, conceived project Counter@ct: preventing and combatting online radicalisation with the general objective of changing behaviours, dissuading vulnerable and susceptible groups, particularly young people with ages between 16 and 25, from adhering to radicalising and terrorist content online, from promoting terrorism and violent extremism and/or using violence, by providing them with alternatives and positive narratives. It is expected that these narratives are conveyed by these vulnerable groups, telling their own successful stories and using their own communication channels.

Project Counter@ct intends to fill in existing gaps identified by RAN regarding the development and impact assessment of counter-narratives campaigns. The project will address push and pull factors of online radicalisation, and study how do vulnerable groups communicate digitally, how they interact, what are their motivations, triggers and key-influencers. It also intends to promote democratic values: internet should remain a place where people are able to speak freely and openly. All this will serve as baseline to develop and assess the impact of an online counter-narrative campaign and evaluate how such an alternative narrative will produce the long-lasting and desired behaviour changes.

It is a very timely and cross-cutting project that has raised the attention of many stakeholders in Portugal and in Europe, namely of the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Internal Affairs. APAV and its partners – Judiciary Police (PJ/Portugal), Presidency of the Council of Ministries (Portugal), Associação Renovar a Mouraria (Portugal), Serviço Jesuíta aos Refugiados (JRS/Portugal), Logframe (Portugal), Digital Xperience (Portugal), Victim Support Europe (Belgium) and Fundacion Fernando Buesa (Basque Country) – are now gathered in Brussels attending an event promoted by the Civil Society Empowerment Programme of the European Comission and by RAN – Radicalisation Awareness Network, where they are haaving the opportunity to gain in depth knowledge on the state of the art of preventing and fighting online radicalization. Experts from Marketing Companies, representatives from social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, researchers in the field of far-right and Islamic radicalization, amongst others, are sharing their knowledge and strategies to support the development of the counter narrative online campaigns, as well as hints on how to improve their reach out to the target groups, whilst also keeping campaigns active and duly monitored in order to achieve and assess its expected impact.

Project ROAR: empowering Victim’s of Cybercrime

At least a million people are victims of cybercrime daily, but many attacks go unnoticed. It is a borderless crime and its risks are increasing exponentially. Cybercrime has disproportionately affected children and youngsters, who often fall victims of online sexual abuse, cyberbullying, sextortion, unwanted posting of images and videos, and many other forms of violence and crime while in the online world.

With the increase of reports of online sexual violence against children and youngsters and bearing in mind the priorities set forth by the EU and its legislative/policy initiatives, ROAR aims to build upon what has been developed, promoting prevention and reporting of cybercrime and improve support to and protection to its victims. It specifically aims to: improve understanding of cybercrime among professionals and policy makers; promote coordination efforts of multi-sector stakeholders (including technology industry) to contribute to enhanced protection of victims and tailored responses to cybercrime; contribute with strategies to enable law enforcement/judicial authorities to perform victim-sensitive investigations and thus contribute to positive judicial outcomes (e.g. contribute to the promotion of victims’ cooperation with and trust in criminal justice system); establish specialised victim support services to victims of cybercrime; contribute to prevention by informing/empowering children/youth with safety online measures; promote a comprehensive understanding of cybercrime among the general public . We aim that these results will contribute to addressing EU’s more pressing needs in this field: build resilience to cybercrime, enhance the EU’s cybersecurity and decrease cybercrime, whilst also providing expertise and knowledge to all relevant stakeholders on how to address child victims of online sexual abuse needs of protection and support, promoting the effective exercise of their rights while accounting for their particular vulnerability.

While designing project ROAR: empowering victims of cybercrime, APAV found essential to establish a partnership with complementary levels expertise in preventing, investigating and supporting victims of cybercrime. ROAR counts with the partnership of the Portuguese General Prosecutors’ Office (PGR/ Portugal), the National Republican Guard (GNR/Portugal), Portugal Telecom (PT/Portugal), Weisser Ring (Germany) and Equality and Human Rights Action Centre (ACTEDO/ Romania).

Project Provictims: the role of the public prosecution in the promotion of victims’ rights

The importance of the role of the victim in the criminal justice system has increased exponentially in the last years. Whereas in the past, victims of crime were frequently the forgotten party in the triangle state-victim-defendant, today they benefit from a broad list of rights and protection. This change in the role of the victim within criminal proceedings  was strongly driven by the European Commission’s impetus on the creation of a victim’s rights package, which culminated with the adoption of Directive 2012/29/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2001/220/JHA, more commonly known as the Victims’ Directive (Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Guide for Lawyers to the Victims Directive & the Criminal Justice Victims of Crime) Act 2017, 2018, p. 4.).

Today, victims are entitled to a more active participation in criminal proceedings. Public prosecutors have far-reaching responsibilities and powers within criminal proceedings and their functions necessarily impact in a vital way on those involved in the proceedings (Hamilton, James, The Role of the Public Prosecutor in Upholding the Rule of Law, 2006, p.3). Hence, prosecutors play a key-role as guarantors of many of the victims’ rights, namely the right to information and communication, the right to protection, including the special needs’ assessment, the right of access to support services, the right of access and to safeguards in restorative justice mechanisms and the rights when crimes occur outside the country where the victim resides.

Being the emphasis on victims’ role in criminal proceedings quite so recent in some Member States, some professionals working within the criminal justice system, including public prosecutors, are still not always aware of their crucial role in making those rights available for victims. Considering public prosecutors’ role in criminal proceedings in all European countries and the impact of their functions on victims’ rights, there are the most pertaining identified needs: training of prosecutors, organisation of cross-border awareness-raising sessions and opportunities to exchange best practices, and, finally, the strengthening of bonds between public prosecution and victim support services. With the aim of answering to these identified needs, APAV has conceived project PRO VICTIMS’s, being its main objectives to:

– increase the knowledge of public prosecutors on specific provisions of the EU acquis and national laws regulating victims’ rights and protection. The project will focus particularly on the individual assessment of victims’ protection needs, on the right to information and communication, on the right to access victim support services, and the right to safeguards in restorative justice services and how these rights are being addressed in practice.

– increase the capacity of prosecution services to address issues related to the above-mentioned rights, by calling their attention to their crucial role in making those rights available for victims and by providing them with a set of practical suggestions in order to play this role.

– improve the cooperation between prosecution services and victims support services, highlighting the specific aspects where this cooperation may take place and how it shall be put into practice, and therefore increase the quality of the services provided by victims support organisations, namely to those victims who are involved in criminal proceedings.

– as a consequence of the previous objectives, promote the compatibility of judicial and administrative practice related to victims’ rights with the relevant EU acquis.

Through the different activities it entails – namely workshops, technical visits and investigation -, this project intends to evaluate current procedures, analyse them in the light of national laws and the Directive 2012/29/EU, diagnose eventual inadequacies and signal good practices and innovative practices which might be disseminated. Based on this analysis, the project intends to enumerate a group of very practical and concrete recommendations which might be taken into account by public prosecutors of partner countries in order to promote in an effective way victims’ access to some of their rights and to enable prosecution services’ participation in narrower cooperation mechanisms with victim support services.

This project will, thus, focus on the search for practical solutions which might help in complying with the Victims’ Directive and, eventually, complying with national laws which are not being implemented. Moreover, the sharing of these solutions, through workshops, technical visits and the final conference, and through the release of a final report within the institutional network of each of the partner countries, will guarantee the dissemination of the main results and findings of this project, not only among the Member States involved in this project, but also among other Member States. The results will be spread beyond the partnership network, creating the possibility of generating improvements in other Member States.

Promoted by APAV and co-funded by the Justice Programme of the European Union, ROAR counts with the partnership of general victim support organizations (APAV, IRSE-EBI and Bijeli Krug Hrvatske), one university (Instituto Direito Criminal e Ciências Criminais, of Faculdade de Direito de Lisboa), one judicial authority (Procuradoria-Geral da República) and one organisation for the promotion of human rights (Irish Council for Civil Liberties – ICCL).

GREVIO Report on Portugal | APAV emphasizes the progresses in the combat of violence against women, although more efficiency is necessary

A European report produced by GREVIO – Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Council of Europe) concludes that Portugal has made significant progresses in the combat of violence against women, but also notes the low rates of convictions.

In an interview to the Portuguese News Agency LUSA, João Lázaro, President of APAV, emphasized the positive conclusions of the Report that recognize Portugal’s significant progresses, whilst underlying that there is still path for improvement by making the system more efficient and coherent. João stated that “in the last decades the country has made great developments in respect to domestic violence and support to its victims”.

“The measures (suggested by GREVIO) are related with proposals for continuous improvement and many of those related with systemic improvements have been highlighted by APAV and many other civil society organisations”, João recognized.

The Report concludes that Portugal has made many progresses and that is “pioneer in certain areas”, but has a low rate of convictions and needs “more robust coordination” between governmental agencies.

In relation to the remaining measures, APAV highlights the training of prosecutors and judges, “not only in the initial training for those who are starting their careers, but also during all the magistrate”.

“The judicial decisions that have been made public last year reveal the costs of not having a vision in accordance with the interpretation of the Constitution of what shall be the guarantee of the rights of victims of crime and of the violation of their rights as a violation of human rights”, João Lázaro affirmed. The President of APAV also underlined the need for better coordination between several jurisdictions in the field of Justice (criminal court and family court), sole responsibility of the State. In this regard João Lázaro also added that “the State has been playing, and well, the role trying to coordinate civil society procedures, but clearly the great challenge is to coordinate itself and articulate its own subsectors of activity so that it can give the example”. As an example of what the State has been doing to correct what is wrong, João pointed out the retrospective analysis of marital homicides, stating that “it is a sign of maturity for the State to look at what is wrong and thus be able to improve”.

Another permeant question raised by João was what to do with and how to put in practice the measures suggested by GREVIO’s Report, by stating “That is the greatest challenge. To put in practice and make the system efficient and coherent”.

The evaluation made public is responsibility of the Group of Experts for the Combat of Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO), an independent and specialist entity foreseen in the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Prevention and Combat of Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, whose mission is to monitor the Convention’s implementation in the signatory states.

“GREVIO recognizes the significant commitment of the Portuguese authorities and the progresses achieved”, states the report, recommending, throughout 80 pages, measures to improve victims’ protection, judicial proceedings against the offenders and in the area of prevention.

The last statistic data from the Observatory of Murdered Women, for 2018, reveal that 24 women were murdered by relatives or spouses in Portugal, six more than in 2017.

In this respect the report “recognises the progresses achieved in the construction of a solid legislative framework on violence against women, but (…) an area of particular concern is the definition of rape, that is not based only in the notion of free consent but also requires the use of “restriction”.

Another concern stated by GREVIO was “the generalised use of suspended criminal sentences and the general lack of convictions in cases of violence against women”.