Incitement to hatred, violence or discrimination

Verified 21 July 2020 - Directorate of Legal and Administrative Information (Prime Minister), Ministry of Justice

Incitement to hatred, violence or discrimination is the act of inciting others to mistreat certain persons because of their origin, religion, sex or sexual orientation. infringement punished by law. If you're a victim of this, you can file a complaint. Some associations may also file complaints against alleged perpetrators. The prosecutor may also decide to take up the case.


Incitement to hatred is the act of inciting others to manifest hatred towards certain persons because of their skin color, origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

The term is also used to refer to incitement to violence and incitement to discrimination on the same grounds.

The persons concerned may be a group of unnamed persons (practitioners of a religion, persons of a certain nationality...), or one or more persons specified and designated by their name.

Incitement to hatred, violence or discrimination is a infringement punished by law. This offense constitutes a offense, if the inducement is public, and a contravention if the incentive is private.

The incentive is public if it has been read or heard by several unrelated persons: comments made in the street, on a public social network,...

The incentive is private if it has been read or heard by only a few people related to each other: on a social network restricted to a few friends, at a professional meeting...

Difference from insult

Incitement to hatred differs from insult.

The author of the insult aims to injure the target of his remarks by his mere fact.

Conversely, the perpetrator of an incitement to hatred seeks not only to convince the witnesses of his remarks, but also to encourage them to act. The words must have been spoken in terms and in a context that imply the will of the author to convince others. For example, if we denigrate a religious group and invite other Internet users to commit violent acts against them.

Difference from defamation

Incitement to hatred involves hateful or violent speech, but without a specific charge.

On the contrary, accusing a group or person of a specific act that is detrimental to their honor (for example, non-compliance with the law) is a case of defamation. For example, if one accuses a particular ethnic group of social fraud, it is a case of racist defamation and not incitement to hatred.

If you are a victim of or witness to comments on the internet (on a forum or social network) that amount to incitement to hatred against certain people, you can report them to the police or the gendarmerie.

Report illegal internet content (internet-reporting: Pharos)

An instant messenger (chat) allows you to chat with a police officer or a member of the gendarmerie. Chat history can be deleted from your computer, mobile phone or tablet at any time.

Report discrimination

You can file a complaint within 1 year after the date of the offense.

On the spot

You must go to a police station or a gendarme brigade of your choice.

Who shall I contact

You may not be refused the receipt of the complaint.

The complaint is then forwarded to the public prosecutor by the police or gendarmerie.

By mail

You can file a complaint with the public prosecutor.

We need to send a free-form letter the court of law of the place of the offense or of the domicile of the offender.

Who shall I contact

The letter should specify the following:

  • Your marital status and full contact information (address and telephone number)
  • Detailed account of the facts, date and place of the offense
  • Name of the alleged perpetrator if known (otherwise, the complaint will be filed against X)
  • Names and addresses of any witnesses to the offense
  • Description and provisional or definitive estimate of the damage
  • Evidence: medical certificates, work stoppages, miscellaneous invoices, findings ...
  • Willingness to take civil action

File a complaint with the public prosecutor

Who shall I contact

You can send your complaint by registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt, by simple letter or by letter followed.

You can also file your complaint directly at the courthouse.

In any case, a receipt is given to you as soon as the Public Prosecutor's Office has registered your complaint.

Associations whose purpose is the fight against racism can also take legal action. They may complain or to be a civil party and request damages.

Associations may also bring a case directly before the court via a direct quotation.

Public Incentive

Type of offense: Offense

Prison sentence: 1 year

Fine: €45,000

The prosecutor may also set up alternative measures to prosecution like a citizenship training.

Non-public incentive

Type of offense: Contravention

Prison sentence: None

Fine: €1,500

The prosecutor may also set up alternative measures to prosecution like a citizenship training.