July 26, 2012
Xenophobic Violence in Greece Highlights Need for Better Government Response
A recent front page article in the New York Times shines a light on the troubling rise in xenophobic violence in Greece. The article cites a new report from Human Rights Watch documenting vicious attacks on asylum seekers and immigrants, and the disturbing lack of police and governmental protection. The report rightly stresses that the Greek government has clear obligations under international human rights law to implement measures to prevent racist and xenophobic violence, investigate the crimes, and prosecute perpetrators. It should also publicly condemn the violence. The government, though, is falling far short. As detailed in the report, police officers have discouraged reporting of these crimes, there have been few prosecutions, hate crime provisions adopted in 2008 remain unused, and data collection systems grossly undercount violent acts. The political will to take this problem seriously appears to be sorely lacking. This problem is not limited to Greece. Xenophobic attacks occur in many countries as detailed in our report, Framework for Combatting Xenophobic Violence. These countries include Italy, Ukraine and others in Europe, but also the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Israel, Libya, South Africa, Russia and the United States. Based on our years of experience monitoring hate crimes globally, we’ve developed a 10-point plan outlining steps that states should take. Among the most critical steps:
- Acknowledge and condemn acts of bias-motivated violence whenever they occur.
- Enact hate crime legislation, strengthen enforcement, and prosecute offenders.
- Monitor and report on attacks.
- Reach out to communities affected by violence to reduce fear, assist victims, and improve reporting of incidents. In addition to states, which bear the primary responsibility, other stakeholders have important roles to play—particularly in helping to address the needs of victims and in advocating for improved policing, prosecutions, and official condemnations of violence.