European Parliament removes parliamentary immunity of two MEPs for inciting racial hatred
The European Parliament voted to remove the parliamentary immunity of the Northern League’s Mario Borghezio for racist comments made against former Italian integration minister and current MEP/Co-President of the European Parliament Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup (ARDI) Cécile Kyenge and the former head of the Front National Jean-Marie Le Pen for hate speech.
Mr Borghezio, in an interview in April 2013, was ruled to have engaged in racist Afrophobic speech against the then Minister for Integration Cécile Kyenge during an interview on Radio24. According to the resolution, Mr Borghezio’s statements “exceeded the tone generally encountered in political debate and are, moreover, profoundly unparliamentary in nature and violated Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and were deemed not to have been made in the performance of the duties of a Member of the European Parliament.” Mr Borghezio will now go on trial at the Court of Milan where he faces charges of advocating ideas founded on superiority and racial or ethnic hatred, which is punishable under Article 1(a) of Italian Law No 205/1993.
Mr Le Pen is facing investigations over comments in a video from June 2014 in where he defended his far-right views against attacks from singers Patrick Bruel and Madonna and former tennis star Yannick Noah. In the video, Le Pen said, “Listen, we’ll just do an oven load next time” in reference to singers and tennis player’s backgrounds.
Cécile Kyenge, Co-President of ARDI, said: “A member of the European Parliament which shows such contempt and hatred because of the color of my skin has not only insulted me, but the values of the European institutions. Every racist expression and incitement to hatred is by its very nature incompatible with the responsibilities that we are called to fulfill as MEPs. This is why the decision of the European Parliament gives an important signal that goes beyond my own personal situation: racism can never be an instrument of political campaigning.”
Soraya Post, Co-President of ARDI, said: “Hate crimes are clearly connected to and affected by political leadership. In the past years, there has been a constant stream of concerning comments from politicians across Europe, that fall short of the responsibilities they have as public figures and opinion leaders. I am pleased that the European Parliament voted in favour of removing parliamentary immunity and sent a strong signal to MEPs and society that incitement to racial hatred is unacceptable and will be punished.”
Michael Privot, Director of ENAR, said: “This is an important decision that shows the European Parliament is finally willing to take racist speech seriously. We have seen the very damaging impact racist discourses can have on migrants’ and ethnic minorities’ lives, for instance in the aftermath of Brexit. If politicians make comments that cross the line into incitement to hatred, they should be sanctioned. We now hope the European Parliament will make this standard practice and part of their rules, and that it will set the tone for national parliaments in upholding the fundamental values of the EU at the core of democratic debates.”