Belgium’s anti-discrimination agency won over 80% of cases taken to court
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Belgium’s anti-discrimination agency won over 80% of cases taken to court

Unia, which fights racism and discrimination, said taking cases to court was "a measure of last resort" and that it helped setting legal precedents to fight future instances of discrimination. Credit: © Belga

Belgium’s anti-discrimination agency Unia has won an overwhelming majority of all the cases it brought before a court since 2009, according to figures unveiled in the Flemish parliament.

Since that year, the government agency has brought a total of 175 cases before a Belgian court, out of which it has won 145, or over 80%, Unia told Flemish lawmakers.

Last year, the anti-discrimination body initiated legal proceedings for a total of 18 cases, with a majority among them (13) being criminal cases, following instances of homophobic violence or incitement to hatred and violence online as well as violence by and against police, Het Nieuwsblad reports.

An additional five were civil cases, concerning instances of discrimination or harassment in the workplace or in the job market, with Unia director Els Keytsman saying it also included applicants who were not hired because of their age or because of a disability.

In their 2018 report, the agency noted an increase in the number cases which made its way to the courts, a hike it said was in turn due to a higher number of complaints it received.

“Courts are a measure of last resort for us,” Keytsman said. “In cases where mediation is not possible or refused because the facts or evidence are too serious.”

In a statement accompanying the report, the agency said that while 2018 had seen a series of homophobic aggressions throughout the country “undermine” Belgium’s standing as an “open and tolerant country,” that year had also been marked by “an increasing number of voices” who rose up to denounce intolerance.

Keytsman also said that, by taking cases to court, the agency’s work contributed to advancing equality within the judiciary, by setting a precedent for “others who are in the same boat.”

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times