For Immediate Release: September 24, 2008
NEW YORK–Incidents of violent hate crime targeting a number of minority groups are increasing or occurring at historically high levels in many of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) member-states, as governments fail to combat such crimes, a new report finds.
The 2008 Hate Crime Survey, released today by Human Rights First, examines the rate of violent hate crimes by motivation – racism and xenophobia, antisemitism, homophobia, anti-Muslim bias, anti-Roma bias and bias against other religious minorities – across the 56 North American and European states that make up the OSCE.
Among the survey’s findings:
- Racially motivated violence in Russia rose 17.4 percent from 2006 to 2007, while racially motivated murders increased 36.5 percent.
- The number of violent assaults related to antisemitism in the United Kingdom rose dramatically last year, making 2007 the worst year on record since monitoring began in 1984.
- Incidents of violence against LGBT people in the United States went up 24 percent from 2006-2007.
- Despite ample evidence of acts of violence targeting Muslims and those perceived to be Muslims across Europe and North America, only five of the 56 OSCE governments publicly report on such incidents.
The report finds that most governments have failed to establish systems to monitor and publicly report on hate crimes and to adopt and implement hate crime laws. More than 40 states failed to collect and publish complete information on hate crimes, while only 13 states have adequate monitoring and reporting systems in place.
“Governments must address this growing threat to public safety and end impunity for these crimes, which strike at the heart of whole communities and the very notion of equality itself,” said Elisa Massimino, Human Rights First’s executive director. “The European Union, the Council of Europe and the OSCE must act urgently to stem the tide of intolerance, by advancing region-wide standards, providing technical assistance to governments, and supporting and training civil society and community groups to combat hate violence.”
The Survey includes a Ten-Point Plan for all governments to strengthen their responses to violent hate crime, including by:
- condemning attacks when they occur and establishing a zero tolerance policy for violent hate crimes
- instructing and adequately training police and prosecutors to investigate and prosecute hate crimes, working in partnership with victims, their communities and civil society groups
- improving monitoring, data collection, and public reporting to ensure accountability of law enforcement and sound public policy
- strengthening criminal laws to cover all forms of bias-motivated violence.
“While a few governments like France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States 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,” said Tad Stahnke, director of Human Rights First’s Fighting Discrimination program.
Release of the HRF report, which focuses on developments in 2007 and the first half of 2008, coincides with the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting this month in Warsaw, an annual gathering where government and NGO representatives discuss human rights commitments including tolerance and non-discrimination.
In addition to looking at the incidence of violence by target, the report focuses on individual countries where violent hate crimes are on the rise, making specific recommendations. Of particular concern is the Russian Federation, where there has been a proliferation of violent hate crime directed against non-Slavic members of Russian society as well as immigrants, migrant workers, and visitors from Africa and Asia. At the current pace, the projected number of bias motivated murders in Russia in 2008 will approach 100, which would be the fourth record-setting year in a row. Though government officials have begun to recognize the problem posed by neo-Nazi violence, the official response has been sorely inadequate.
In Ukraine, too, racial, antisemitic and other bias-motivated violent crimes are on the rise; people of African and Asian origin have been targeted in brutal, lethal attacks. Jewish religious leaders and community property, as well as predominantly Muslim Crimean Tartars are also common targets of bias-motivated crimes. The government has undertaken a number of steps to combat hate crimes, but its overall response to this problem has been inconsistent and insufficient.
The survey also profiles hate crime cases from 30 countries, including France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
In the United States, the government has generally responded vigorously to violent hate crimes, in both rhetoric and action. Yet official statistics show rising numbers of hate crimes targeting Hispanics, and both official and nongovernmental data indicate a rise in sexual orientation bias crime from 2006 to 2007. People of African descent, Jews, Muslims, and people perceived to be Muslims continue to be among the principal victims of violent hate crime.
Two additional sections evaluate governments’ hate crime laws and their systems of monitoring and reporting. A systematic survey of each of the 56 OSCE countries on the basis of their hate crime laws and systems of monitoring can be found on Human Rights First’s Web-based Hate Crime Report Card, available at: http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/discrimination/index.asp.