June 06, 2007
New Report Finds Hate Crimes on the Rise in Many Parts of Europe
NEW YORK – Hate crimes are on the rise in many parts of Europe, according to Human Rights First’s 2007 Hate Crimes Survey, a new report examining hate-driven violence in countries from the Russian Federation and the Central Asian states across Europe to North America. The report, which focuses primarily on developments in 2006, is being released June 6 to coincide with a meeting on combating discrimination being held in Bucharest by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which comprises 56 nations. “Bias-motivated violence remains a serious problem in Europe,” stated Maureen Byrnes, Executive Director of Human Rights First. “While a few governments like France, Germany, and the United Kingdom have undertaken to systematically monitor hate crimes, most governments don’t even collect baseline statistics on the problem. This reflects an underlying indifference on the part of many governments.” The Survey spotlights a sample of countries in greater detail. In the Russian Federation, there has been a proliferation of violent hate crimes directed against ethnic, religious and national minorities. In January, a knife-wielding extremist wounded nine worshippers in a Moscow synagogue. In April, a gunmen shot and killed a student from Senegal as he left a St. Petersburg nightclub. The weapon he left behind – a hunting rifle – was emblazoned with a swastika. Likewise, in Ukraine, racist violence toward people of African origin and other minorities has had increasingly lethal consequences. In October, five men attacked and murdered an oil company professional of Nigerian origin in the capital Kiev. In Germany, extremist crimes have reached their highest levels since the current monitoring system was introduced in 2001. Hate crimes in other countries in Europe are likewise occurring at levels far higher than in the 1990s. “European states, in particular, must realize the urgency of addressing hate crimes as a matter of priority,” continued Byrnes. “Victimizing one member of a particular group threatens all members of that group, and causes immeasurable harm to society at large.” Human Rights First is also publishing three companion reports which examine antisemitic, anti-Muslim and anti-gay prejudices and violence. “Part of the challenge of compiling these reports lay in the lack of consistent, reliable statistics in many countries. The reporting of nongovernmental organizations helps to fill the gaps, but cannot be a substitute for comprehensive official data collection systems,” said Paul LeGendre, Interim Director of Human Rights First’s Fighting Discrimination Program and the co-author of these reports. Antisemitic violence increased significantly in some countries. In the United Kingdom, there was a sharp jump in antisemitic incidents. In Ukraine, nongovernmental sources show that antisemitic violence is also on the rise. In France, where government measures contributed to a dramatic drop in antisemitic crimes in 2005, the number of those incidents rose again in 2006 and they were increasingly violent in nature. In Germany, the number of antisemitic incidents leveled off in 2006, but only after two years of increases. There are a number of other European countries where antisemitic crimes are also occurring, but where information on such incidents is much less readily available. Anti-Muslim hate crimes have also persisted in Europe in a climate of growing anti-immigrant bias and racist violence. Beyond the everyday cases of harassment and intimidation, there have been occasional spikes in the levels of violence, with a particular surge occurring after the July 7, 2005 bombings in London. There is a dearth of information in most European countries on anti-Muslim violence, although information from France and the United Kingdom provide a window into such violence. Anti-gay violence is becoming more apparent in many parts of Europe, although only the United Kingdom and Sweden have made a commitment to monitor such attacks in their official reporting on hate crimes. Increased public presence has in some cases brought with it a rise in homophobic rhetoric and violent backlash. Such was the case when gay pride events were held in five eastern European cities – Moscow, Bucharest, Warsaw, Riga, and Tallinn – during the spring and summer of 2006. The Survey also addresses the issues of disability-based bias and hate crimes directed at people of African origin, members of so-called “non-traditional religions,” and human rights defenders. RECOMMENDATIONS Among the recommendations in the Survey, Human Rights First is urging European governments to:
- Adopt laws that provide enhanced penalties for hate crimes.
- Strengthen law enforcement of violent hate crimes and provide adequate resources to law enforcement bodies.
- Establish official systems to monitor hate crimes and issue public reports providing accurate data on the groups targeted to help inform policies to combat hate crimes.