For Immediate Release: November 17, 2011
Intergovernmental report: “Hate crime remains a significant problem across the OSCE region”
New York City – Human Rights First and the Anti-Defamation League today issued a paper critiquing the inadequate responses of States within the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to hate crime. The jointly authored companion brief echoes the findings of an OSCE report released yesterday which concludes that “hate crime remains a significant problem across the OSCE region, undermining personal, neighborhood and state security, and eroding confidence across and among communities,” and that “the full extent of hate crimes in the OSCE region continues to be obscured by a lack of adequate or reliable data.”
The OSCE report, “Hate Crimes in the OSCE Region – Incidents and Responses: Report for 2010,” issued on International Day for Tolerance, comes just days after a potent reminder of the problem of hate crime: on November 13, OSCE-member state Germany charged Beate Zschaepe with co-founding and belonging to a neo-Nazi terrorist organization believed to be responsible for ten murders – largely of immigrants from Turkey – between 2000 and 2007.
“The OSCE has emerged as a leader among intergovernmental organizations in combating hate crime. Its annual report is a powerful tool to raise awareness and provide useful analysis on the problem of hate crime throughout North America, Europe and the former Soviet Union,” observed Human Rights First’s Paul LeGendre. “Unfortunately, only a little more than half of those – 31 of 56 – submitted information to the OSCE, and many of the nations that did supply information provided no official data. This incomplete picture of hate crime hinders our ability to get a true sense of the scope of this problem and government responses to it. This lack of quality information appears to mirror the ‘fatigue’ seen in many OSCE governments’ responses to hate crime.”
The data submitted by governments is clearly not telling the full story of the incidence of hate crime across the OSCE region. Fortunately, reporting from the media and nongovernmental entities has gone some way in filling some of the information gaps.
“NGO submissions are a bright spot in this report. The number of civil society groups who contribute information has almost doubled since 2009, with 93 NGOs submitting information this year,” adds LeGendre. “We also welcome increased intergovernmental and interagency cooperation on these issues, in particular between ODIHR and the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR). We are already seeing the positive effects of the Memorandum of Understanding signed by ODIHR and UNHCR through wider and better reporting of hate crime incidents against refugees and asylum seekers.”
The joint analysis produced by Human Rights First and Anti-Defamation League offers specific recommendations tailored to states’ varying levels of adherence to commitments to combat hate crimes. Among the recommendations to states are the following:
- Train police to identify and properly record hate crimes.
- Reach out to nongovernmental organizations and develop programs to enhance reporting of hate crimes.
- Develop monitoring systems that provide disaggregated data on the characteristics of the victims or on the bias motivations.
- Make hate crime data available to the ODIHR and to the public.
- Enact laws that establish specific offenses or provide enhanced penalties for violent crimes committed because of the victim’s race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, mental and physical disabilities, or other similar status.
LeGendre concluded, “From last December’s race riots in Moscow and Anders Breivik’s summer terrorist attack in Norway to the recent arrests of neo-Nazis accused of hate crime murders in Germany, the commitment of governments across Europe and North America to combat intolerance is being tested daily. These events serve as wake-up calls to all governments about the need to confront violent manifestations of extremism and to strengthen responses to hate crimes, while affirming equal rights for all.”