Intergovernmental Report: Hate Crime Remains a Serious Problem in Europe and North America

NEWS, 22 Nov 2010

Human Rights First – TRANSCEND Media Service

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) today [17 Nov 2010] released its annual report for 2009 “Hate Crimes in the OSCE Region – Incidents and Responses,” concluding that hate crime continued to be a serious problem in many of the 56 countries in North America, Europe, and the former Soviet Union. This is the first study since the passage of the notable 2009 Ministerial Council Decision 9/09, in which participating countries upheld unanimously their commitment to collect and publicize detailed statistics on hate crime.

To compliment the intergovernmental report, U.S. international rights groups Human Rights First (HRF) and Anti-Defamation League (ADL) issued a reaction paper that highlights the failure of many of the OSCE states to fulfill commitments to combat the problem.

“While the OSCE member states have adopted meaningful political commitments to combat hate crime, this report reveals that most states still have a long way to go in turning those words into action,” stated Human Rights First’s Paul LeGendre. “We are calling on States to reaffirm these commitments and their will to act at the highest level when they meet on December 1-2 at the first OSCE Summit meeting since 1999.”

According to the report of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), 2009 saw instances of intimidation, threats, vandalism, arson, assault, and murder targeted against persons or groups because of their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or other status. The scarcely available official government figures tracking such crimes underscore the importance of strengthening state responses to hate crimes, including through enactment of legislation, data collection, and sharing of best practices.

Human Rights First maintains that authorities continue to underreport the true number of incidents, although the group acknowledges that more countries are taking steps to improve their legislative frameworks and systems of data collection, while requesting international cooperation to train police and prosecutors.

“Bulgaria, for example, amended its hate crime provision and submitted data to ODIHR for the first time this year, while also agreeing to participate in the Law Enforcement Training Program coordinated by the OSCE,” notes Paul LeGendre. “We hope the ODIHR’s report serves as an annual reminder to more governments about the vast resources available to them, as the overall across-the-board response to hate crime remains feeble.”

The joint analysis produced by Human Rights First and Anti-Defamation League offers specific recommendations tailored to states’ varying levels of adherence to commitments to combat hate crimes.

“The ODIHR’s annual report confirms nongovernmental and media reports suggesting that hate crime continues to be a serious challenge for governments throughout the region in 2009.” noted LeGendre.

The beheading of a Kyrgyz man in the Russian Federation, the brutal murder of a Romani man and his 5-year-old son in Hungary, the stabbing of a gay couple in the United Kingdom, the wave of antisemitic violence across many countries in Europe that followed Israeli attacks in Gaza, and the stabbing of a Muslim cab driver in the United States, are among the long list of violent hate crimes that generated shock waves through entire communities.

“Governments must step up their efforts to combat hate violence and enlist the help of ODIHR’s experts to improve their legislative frameworks, institute sound data collection mechanisms, and train law enforcement officials.” concluded LeGendre.

 

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 22 Nov 2010.

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