Today, the Democracy and Human Rights branch of the Organization for Security in Cooperation in Europe (ODIHR) released its annual hate crime report, covering incidents and events that took place in 2009.
The Warsaw-based ODIHR follows the same methodology as last year, relying on data submitted by government agencies through special “national points of contact,” which exist in every OSCE country, except San Marino and Uzbekistan. Due to this reliance on national data and the inconsistency in data collection mechanisms across the Organization’s participating States (there are 56), it’s tricky to make generalizations about the impact of hate crime on the Organization as a whole.
For example, the United Kingdom reported 52,102 crimes (an annual increase of some 6,000 incidents); Spain claimed there’s been a ten-fold decrease in incidents over the past two years (from 224 in 2007 to 23 in 2009); Greece officially recorded only 2 hate crime attacks; while Russia and the United States were late in submitting their data so it’s not even included in the report (in Russia, the data came out in October, in the U.S., it will be published next week). The discrepancies are obvious, but the truth is still out there, somewhere.
While data submitted by governments does not permit for cross-country analysis, the main trend visible in the submitted information points to stabilization and even slight decreases in the number of recorded hate crime incidents. However, ODIHR also cites data from some 73 nongovernmental organizations from the region; and civil society data is often slightly or considerably higher than the official figures. Including Greece, ten other countries reported fewer than ten hate crimes nationally, even though in some cases nongovernmental sources have reported far more.
Human Rights First and the Anti-Defamation League produced a short analysis of ODIHR’s hate crime report, focusing on the implementation of OSCE data collection commitments, of which there are many, most recently outlined in the Ministerial Decision 9/09. Once again, we found that even countries that have made efforts to establish more robust monitoring systems generally do not disaggregate the data—limiting its usefulness to serve as a tool to develop sound policies to protect those vulnerable to hate crime.
Based on the available information, we can conclude that authorities continue to underreport the true number of incidents. However, more countries are taking steps to improve their legislative frameworks and systems of data collection including requesting international cooperation to train police and prosecutors. That is perhaps the most important highlight of the ODIHR’s report, which shows real progress in government responses to hate crimes–through legislation and police training.
Next month, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will travel to Astana, Kazakhstan, to attend the first OSCE Summit in 11 years. Some forty heads of state and other senior officials are expected to be there, including Dmitry Medvedev of Russia, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, and Chairman of European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso. As the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe tries to “relaunch” its identity and reaffirm the founding principles of the Helsinki Accords of 1975, we hope there will be opportunities to applaud the work of ODIHR and its Tolerance and Non-Discrimination department, which, among other things, assists governments in drafting hate crime legislation, conducts trainings for civil society activists and law enforcement personnel, and produces a variety of tool kits, guidebooks and educational publications including the hate crime survey released today.
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