For Immediate Release: August 7, 2008
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A coalition of leading advocacy groups, convened by Human Rights First, has called on Dan Fried, the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, to use an upcoming bilateral meeting to substantively address the precipitous rise in racially-motivated murders and other hate crimes in Ukraine since 2006.
The bilateral consultation between the United States and Ukraine is tentatively scheduled to take place in September. In a joint letter, Human Rights First, Amnesty International, Freedom House, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, NCSJ: Advocates on behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States, and Eurasia, and the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union, outlined recommendations on how to strengthen the Ukrainian government’s response to the problem.
The letter comes in response to the dramatic rise in the number of racially-motivated murders and hate crimes since 2006. There were 86 violent hate crimes and five racist murders last year. In the first six months of 2008, there have already been at least four murders of foreigners in which there is a suspected xenophobic motivation, according to the letter.
“Progress in dealing with violent manifestations of racism and xenophobia should be an essential component of the relationship between the United States and Ukraine, allowing the country to demonstrate its commitment to the rule of law as it seeks greater integration into Europe and membership in NATO,” said Human Rights First Washington Director Elisa Massimino
Despite President Yuschenko and other senior government officials’ “willingness to recognize the concerns of the international community and to work with international and domestic groups to address racially-motivated violence, the overall government response has been “inconsistent and insufficient and there is much more the government can and should be doing,” the letter stated.
The letter makes a number of recommendations to stem the escalation of hate crimes and complement existing efforts in Ukraine, including:
- A public commitment by law-enforcement agencies to investigate allegations of bias motives in specific violent crimes committed against people of other races and creeds, including foreigners and migrants, and to provide regular public updates into the investigation and prosecution of such crimes.
- The development of clear guidelines mandating police officers and investigators to record bias motives in the commission of a crime. In this connection, the Interior Ministry should commit to making data on the incidence of violent hate crimes public – an important step toward improved public policy on combating hate crime.
- Concrete steps by law enforcement officials – including reaching out to community and other nongovernmental groups – to increase the confidence of hate crime victims to report crimes to the police. In this connection, the authorities should ensure thorough investigation and prosecution of any reports of police harassment of hate crime victims.