For Immediate Release: August 19, 2008
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A leading human rights advocacy group has urged high-ranking European officials to use a September 9 summit meeting with Ukrainian officials to address substantively the precipitous rise in racially-motivated violent hate crimes that have occurred in Ukraine since 2006.
In letters to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in his capacity as president of the EU Council, Secretary General Javier Solana and other senior EU officials, Human Rights First urges the European delegation to the upcoming E.U.-Ukraine Summit to raise the recent increase in racist and related violence and put forward specific recommendations on how to strengthen the Ukrainian government’s response to the problem. The full text can be read here.
The letter comes in response to the significant rise in the number of racially-motivated murders and hate crimes, which have increased dramatically 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. These figures represent only the tip of the iceberg as the government does not publish statistics on violent hate crime.
“European leaders can send a clear message that Ukraine should enhance its efforts to combat violent manifestations of racism and xenophobia as it seeks greater integration into the E.U.,” said Elisa Massimino, the Washington Director for Human Rights First. “The EU and Ukraine affirmed at last year’s summit that strengthening the rule of law and respect for human rights would deepen their relations. By taking the specific steps we have proposed, Ukraine can demonstrate its commitment to addressing one of the most serious human rights issues facing the country today.”
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.