A. Official Statistics
Although essential to an effective strategy to combat hate crime, very few of the 56 European and North American governments that constitute the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) collect and publish data on crimes motivated by bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States are the countries where such monitoring is most developed. Other countries, like the Netherlands and Norway, have also undertaken more recently to monitor homophobic hate crimes. As discussed earlier, even in those countries where data is collected, the number of incidents is generally thought to be highly underreported.
In Canada, on June 9, 2008, the government released national hate crime statistics for the first time. This report is based upon data on 892 hate-motivated cases from 2006. Police-reported data found that approximately eighty incidents (10 percent) represented hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation. Homophobic hate crimes were the third most frequent hate crime after race/ethnicity (61 percent) and religion (27 percent). Incidents motivated by sexual orientation were primarily of a violent nature, thereby standing out from other hate crimes. The report showed that 56 percent of the documented homophobic hate crimes were of a violent nature. In comparison, 38 percent of all racially-motivated offenses were of a violent nature.
In addition to these national figures, a number of Canadian police agencies in metropolitan areas report on hate crimes, including those motivated by sexual orientation. In Toronto, the police’s 2006 report showed an increase of sexual orientation-based hate crimes over 2005. 18 cases of LGBT victimization represented 11 percent of the 162 reported hate crimes. In 2007, even though there was a sharply reduced number of recorded hate crimes (130), the number of those motivated by sexual orientation bias was similar (17), representing a higher percentage (13 percent) of the overall number.
In Sweden, the Swedish Security Service began publishing statistics on hate crimes with xenophobic, antisemitic, or homophobic motives in 1997; in 2006, the National Council for Crime Prevention was commissioned to produce hate crime statistics. Data from this source revealed that 3,536 hate crimes were reported in 2007. 723 cases had a homophobic motive (20.4 percent of total reported hate crimes). The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) expressed deep concern that “the report clearly indicates an increase of 21 percent in hate crimes with homophobic motives compared with 2005. In addition, the statistics show that an alarmingly large number of perpetrators are under the age of 20 (53 percent).”
There are national hate crime figures in the United Kingdom, but these do not track crimes motivated by bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Within the country, London’s Metropolitan Police produces the most consistent and comprehensive monitoring and reporting on sexual orientation bias crimes. Although hate crimes overall in London have been on the decline over the past two years, the number of crimes motivated by sexual orientation has remained steady, with 1,294 in 2005/2006 (representing 8.3 percent of overall hate crime), and 1,260 from 2006/2007 (representing 10.1 percent).
The Police Services of Northern Ireland, in statistical reporting for the period of April 1, 2007, through March 31, 2008, reported details on 160 “homophobic” incidents and 7 “transphobic” incidents. 68.4 percent of those incidents were reported to be violent crimes against persons (as opposed to property crimes), significantly higher than for any other bias category. By contrast, as concerns racially-motivated crimes, the percentage of violent crimes (37.4 percent) is much lower. Compared with the previous year, there were 5 more homophobic incidents reported (+3.2 percent) and a decrease by 25 transphobic incidents (-78.1 percent).
In the United States, the Uniform Crime Reporting Program of the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported that in 2006 there were 9,076 hate crime offenses. Of those, 1,415 hate crime offenses (15.5 percent) were motivated by sexual orientation bias. This constitutes an increase of 17.2 percent over the 1,171 incidents reported to the FBI from state and local law enforcement jurisdictions in 2005. As in previous years, FBI hate crime data shows that attacks founded on sexual orientation continue to be characterized by a high level of violence, with a higher proportion of personal assaults than in other categories of hate crime.
In two other countries, police have also recently begun to record and report on violence motivated by animus based on sexual orientation. In the Netherlands, the Amsterdam police for the first time in 2007 registered antigay incidents separately, recording 234 such incidents. Most of them involved verbal abuse, but in 79 cases violence was used. Moreover, the Amsterdam City Council asked the University of Amsterdam to do a study on perpetrators of antigay violence. The main aim of the study is to get more insight into the motives behind homophobic hate crimes. In-depth interviews with about thirty perpetrators will provide the core data for analysis. Results are expected in autumn 2008.
In Norway, according to the Equality and Antidiscrimination Ombudsman, the government took new steps in March 2007 to combat hate crime, with a decision by the Department of Justice and Police that all incidents of hate crime are henceforth to be registered by the police. The Ombudsman’s Office further informed Human Rights First that it has been cooperating with the police in this matter, that registration of hate crimes has been discussed, and that police will begin recording bias motivations based on ethnic origin, sexual orientation, and religion. In September 2007, Justice Minister Knut Storberget told the press that “Norwegian police have begun registering all episodes of so-called ‘hate crimes,’ involving violence against certain groups of people,” and cited findings of a recent survey conducted by the ministry indicating a rise in violence of this kind. This survey identified people targeted because of racial differences, gay men, and the elderly as particularly vulnerable to bias attacks.
In 2007, the Norwegian police, together with the National Association for Lesbian and Homosexual Emancipation (LLH), introduced a hate crime campaign on violence against lesbians and gay men. The goal is to prevent homophobic violence, increase reporting, and make sure that crimes are registered correctly.
B. Law Enforcement and the Framework of Criminal Law
The lack of data on sexual orientation bias crimes for the vast majority of OSCE participating states makes it very difficult to assess the law enforcement response to violent incidents. Even where such statistics are recorded, underreporting is a major problem with regard to the LGBT community.
Victims of hate crimes driven by homophobia often face cultural or social obstacles to reporting attacks and threats. Attacks on LGBT people sometimes go unreported because to do so would bring into light an individual’s sexual orientation, possibly resulting in further abuse. LGBT persons may fear additional victimization and have little confidence that the criminal justice system will act appropriately in response to criminal complaints.
Compounding the problems of underreporting and police intolerance is the reality that homosexuality remains socially unacceptable in broad social sectors in many countries of the OSCE. Antigay rhetoric of some political and community leaders have strongly reinforced that message, as have failures of the police to protect participants in gay pride parades (discussed below).
In addition, legislation on bias as an aggravating circumstance extends to sexual orientation in only 12 of the 56 OSCE participating countries. These are: Andorra, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, France, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States (in some of the states, but not the national law). Bias based on gender identity is explicitly mentioned in criminal law only in the United States—and even there only at the state level in eleven states and the District of Columbia.
In the absence of national legislation expressly identifying sexual orientation bias as an aggravating factor, at least one country has sentencing instructions or guidelines acknowledging these bias elements as aggravating circumstances. In the Netherlands, a Discrimination Directive, issued every four years by the Board of Procurators General, while falling short of a legislative act, instructs prosecutors to request a 25 percent penalty enhancement in the sentencing of common crimes motivated by discrimination, including on the grounds of sexual orientation.
In the United States, although federal hate crime legislation does not make violence motivated by sexual orientation a crime, state legislation in thirty states and the District of Columbia provides enhanced penalties for offenses motivated by sexual orientation bias. Efforts in 2007 to expand federal hate crime legislation through the adoption of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crime Prevention Act of 2007 (LLEHCPA) were unsuccessful. The LLEHCPA was passed by the House of Representatives on May 3, 2007, and the Senate on September 27, 2007, but was not finally enacted into law. The proposed legislation sought to eliminate the requirement that prosecutors must demonstrate that a victim was targeted expressly because of that person’s participation in one of the six federally protected categories, one of the current requirements for application of the federal law. The bill also would have extended the bias categories under federal protection to include gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability. On December 10, 2007, the bill was detached from the Department of Defense Authorization Bill (FY2009). President George W. Bush indicated he would veto the bill if it was sent to his desk as a stand-alone bill, and Congressional leadership decided to suspend any further action until 2008 at the earliest.
In the United Kingdom, where bias based on sexual orientation is an aggravating factor in the criminal law in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, efforts have been made by the Crown Prosecution Service to enhance the prosecution of homophobic hate crimes. In November 2007, the CPS released a report to provide guidance on the prosecution of hate crimes motivated by bias based on sexual orientation. The report—Guidance on Prosecuting Cases of Homophobic and Transphobic Crime—reiterates the importance of thorough investigation and prosecution of such cases, stating that
prejudice, discrimination or hatred of members of any part of our community based on their sexual orientation or gender identity have no place in a civilized society; any such prejudice, discrimination or hate that shows itself in the commission of crime must be thoroughly and properly investigated and firmly and rigorously prosecuted in the courts. A clear message must be sent so that those who commit such crimes realize that they will be dealt with firmly under the criminal law: the CPS has a vital role to play in delivering this aim, not only in terms of its own role but also in terms of advising its partners in the criminal justice system—the police, the courts, magistrates, judges and those in the voluntary sector—that this sort of crime must no longer be tolerated.
C. Assaults on Gay Pride Parades and Events and the Response of Police
As in the past, the year 2007 and early 2008 saw the greatest public visibility for the LGBT community in the form of gay pride parades, although that visibility triggered incidents of intolerance and violence in several countries. In some cases, gay pride parades and events in Eastern Europe resulted in homophobic diatribes from political and other leaders, poor police protection, and acts of harassment and violence against the participants. The way in which recent events transpired in some countries—including Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, and Romania—suggest that the authorities took additional precautions to prevent violence in comparison to previous years. In other countries—particularly Moldova and the Russian Federation—the authorities themselves continued to contribute to the danger faced by the participants in gay pride parades. In another group of countries—notably Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovenia—incidents of violence occurred despite apparently significant police preparations to protect the marchers. In a number of cases, police authorities were able to identify the violent protestors as being affiliated with an organized neo-fascist or other extremist groups operating within that particular country.
Both legal guidance and political concern have been expressed in the last two years by several European institutions regarding the duty of the state to protect people in their exercise of freedom of assembly.
In a May 3, 2007, decision in Baczkowski and Others v. Poland—a case brought in response to the decision of the Polish authorities to ban a gay pride march in Warsaw in June 2005—the European Court of Human Rights held that “a genuine and effective respect for freedom of association and assembly cannot be reduced to a mere duty on the part of the State not to interfere; a purely negative conception would not be compatible with the purpose of Article 11 nor with that of the Convention in general. There may thus be positive obligations to secure the effective enjoyment of these freedoms.” This could be interpreted as a duty on the government to protect the participants of gay pride marches from hate motivated acts committed against them while enjoying freedom of assembly.
On April 26, 2007, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on Homophobia in Europe, addressing many concerns related to the discrimination and violence experienced by the LGBT community in Europe. The resolution was prompted by a “series of worrying events, such as the prohibition imposed by local authorities on holding equality and gay pride marches, the use by leading politicians and religious leaders of inflammatory or threatening language or hate speech, the failure by the police to provide adequate protection against violent demonstrations by homophobic groups, even while breaking up peaceful demonstrations.”
What follows is a chronicle of some of the incidents of violence that occurred in a wide range of countries—largely in Eastern and Southeastern Europe—since 2007.
On June 28, 2008, in the country’s first gay pride parade in Sofia, protestors threw Molotov cocktails, stones, bottles, and gasoline bombs at 150 participants. The police—present in numbers that nearly equaled the number of participants—were largely able to provide protection to the marchers, arresting 88 people for their involvement in attacks against the parade.
Various extremist groups were identified as contributing to the attacks. Among those arrested was Boyan Rasate, head of the Bulgarian National Union, an extreme right party. The group organized a “week of intolerance” right before the gay pride march with the motto “Be normal, Be intolerant.” The group held seminars on restricting “homosexual ideas” from spreading in Bulgaria.
On July 7, 2007, violence broke out during the Zagreb Pride march. Skinheads threw eggs, ashtrays, and glass bottles, disrupting the parade. Some five hundred police officers provided a barrier, shielding participants from much of the harassment and violence. Roughly twenty participants were targeted individually in the parade, and ten people were harmed, two of whom required medical treatment.
The Zagreb Pride march ended in Cvijetni Trg (Flowers Square), where a group of young people began throwing petrol bombs and tear gas canisters at the participants. Two women and one man were held for questioning in connection with those acts.
Josip Šitum, one of the protestors against the march, was held accountable for the petrol bombs and charged with a misdemeanor. The prosecutor’s office subsequently initiated a criminal procedure. On February 25, 2008, Šitum, 25, was found guilty of a hate crime, endangering lives, and property. He was sentenced to 14 months in jail and mandatory psychiatric treatment. He is the first person convicted of a hate crime in the country since hate crimes became an offence under the country’s Penal Code in 2006.
On June 28, 2008, Zagreb celebrated the seventh annual gay pride parade. Unlike the prior year, there were no reported incidences of violence. The only disruption reported came from one protester who yelled into the crowd of marchers: “This is Croatia! Remember Vukovar! Shame on you! Remember the generals!” The protester was ultimately removed from the area by the police. There were reports of some parade participants being targets of harassment and violence after the conclusion of the parade.
On June 28, 2008, in Brno, about five hundred people participated in the country’s first gay pride parade. Several hundred police officials were present at the parade to provide protection to the marchers from an aggressive group of right-wing extremists. The protestors shouted insults and assaulted the marchers with rocks, eggs, fireworks, and tear gas. At least twenty marchers were injured. The tear gas sent two civilian victims to the hospital for emergency care, and one police officer collapsed and was subsequently hospitalized. According to Agence France Presse, fifteen antigay demonstrators were jailed and two were charged with public disturbance.
In 2007, while the gay pride parade in Tallinn was officially sanctioned, authorities attempted to place restrictions on the event by initially forbidding the activists from marching through the Old Town. However, gay rights activists prevailed, and on August 11, 2007, some three hundred people walked through the historic Old Town, in an event that culminated a week-long gay culture festival with the first-ever official Gay Pride Parade in Old Town Tallinn. Thousands of people watched the parade, which was well-protected by police and private security. The only challenge came from a small alternative procession that followed the demonstrators and chanted “No Pride!”
The year before, on August 13, 2006, during Estonia’s Gay Pride, a group of twenty antigay protesters armed with sticks and stones attacked some of the estimated five hundred gay rights supporters moving through the streets of Tallinn carrying rainbow-colored flags. Parade spokeswoman Lisette Kampus said twelve people were injured; she also criticized the police, noting that “there were too few police present so they could not really handle the violent attack.”
On July 7, 2007, despite a police escort, approximately two thousand participants in the annual gay pride march in Budapest encountered a crowd of several hundred antigay protestors who hurled smoke bombs, beer bottles, eggs, and nylon bags filled with sand at them. Later in the evening, after police had departed after observing the dispersal of the antigay demonstrators, witnesses reported a number of physical assaults on persons entering and leaving a nightclub that marked the terminus of the march. Several NGOs criticized police for inaction and for charging the seventeen persons arrested in connection with the parade with “group disorderly conduct,” instead of the more serious charge of incitement against a community or violation of the freedom of assembly.
On July 5, 2008, hundreds of marchers participated in the Budapest Dignity March. Participants and police forces had prepared for potential attacks after two different LGBT-affiliated businesses were victims of violence earlier in the week. As hundreds of far-right demonstrators gathered near the square where the march was taking place, police officials erected high metal barriers on both sides of the road in an effort to restrict access to the march route and protect the participants. In response, the rioters threw petrol bombs and stones at the police. One police van was set on fire and two police officers reported injuries from the event. Other protestors shouted antisemitic slogans while throwing eggs, firecrackers, and Molotov cocktails at the people in the parade. Ambulance personnel reported at least eight marchers were injured in the attacks. Police spokeswoman Eva Tafferner stated that riot police detained forty-five people. Observers called this event “the worst violence during the dozen years the Gay Pride Parade has taken place in Budapest.”
On June 3, 2007, Latvia’s LGBT community held the first officially sanctioned gay pride celebrations. The parade took place in a park surrounded by two rows of officers cordoning the area. A small number of protesters shouted verbal abuse and made obscene gestures. Two home-made bombs were set off in the park during the march. There were no reported injuries. Two people were detained and charged with hooliganism in connection with the bombings.
Overall, police were credited with having made a serious effort to protect the marchers, although activists stated that improvements still needed to be made in order to guarantee the right to freedom of assembly of LGBT persons. In contrast, the 2006 gay pride event was marred by intolerance, as antigay protesters hurled feces and eggs at gay rights activists and supporters leaving a church service in the Latvian capital. Police reportedly did little to stop the attacks in 2006.
In January 2008, the Vidzeme District Court in Riga found 32-year-old Jānis Dzelme guilty of throwing a bag of excrement at a car during the 2006 Riga Gay Pride Parade. He was sentenced to 100 hours of “compulsory labor” due to his actions of “gross public disorderliness as manifested in an obvious lack of respect toward the public by ignoring universally accepted norms of behavior.” In appreciation of the district court’s successful prosecution, Kristīne Garina, the chairman of Latvian LGBT organization Mozaīka, was quoted as saying “this is an enormously important precedent which will send very strong signals to those people in Latvia who believe that freedom of assembly and freedom of speech should be limited with violence. Let them understand that such behavior will have serious consequences. … Today we can feel safer and more equal than we did in the summer of 2006.”
On April 27, 2007, the LGBT rights organization GenderDoc-M organized the sixth gay pride march in Chisinau, although the event was marred by threats from authorities and protesters. The proposed march had been banned by the authorities, although a small gathering of about twenty LGBT activists did take place. A group of protestors, double their size, encircled them, yelling homophobic slurs and pelting eggs at the group. The activists nonetheless made their way to the Monument to the Victims of Repression, where they intended to lay flowers. A large group of police prevented this from happening on the pretext that they needed permission from the Chisinau City Hall.
On May 11, 2008, GenderDoc-M attempted to organize the seventh gay pride parade in the capital. However, the bus which carried approximately 60 pride participants was met with opposition from extremist neo-fascist and other groups. Hundreds of protestors surrounded the bus for over an hour. The large mob shouted violent slurs at the bus: “let’s get them out and beat them up,” and “beat them to death, don’t let them escape.” Eventually, the bus doors were forced open by two men from the angry crowd, who demanded that if the participants wished to leave the bus without being physically harmed, they must destroy the pride parade materials. The overwhelmed and outnumbered LGBT advocates complied and the planned pride march was called off. Moldovan police was reportedly present at the event; however they stood passively about one hundred meters away and made no attempt to help the trapped participants. GenderDoc-M claims that nine calls were made to the police from inside the bus, but the LGBT activists received no assistance from the law enforcers.
On June 7, 2008, over one thousand participants took part in Warsaw’s annual Equality Parade under the “Live, Love, Be” slogan. More than a hundred protestors from a variety of extremist right-wing groups attended the parade. Despite the vocal disturbances, there were no incidents of physical violence. Hundreds of Warsaw police officials were present at the parade, successfully blocking the protestors from entering parade route from downtown Warsaw to the prime minister’s office.
The 2008 parade was largely a continuation of the peaceful atmosphere in which the parade transpired the previous year. On May 19, 2007, the second official LGBT Equality March took place in Warsaw. Over five thousand participants took part in the march. An audience watched the parade through a heavy police presence in what was described by observers as a generally peaceful environment.
In 2006, the first officially sanctioned parade brought together several thousand activists, who were countered by a group of egg-throwing protestors. The police responded affirmatively to prevent an escalation of violence. The parade took place in what some gay rights activists called “an atmosphere of hate,” fueled in part by homophobic statements and policies of the country’s leadership. In 2004 and 2005, the parade had been banned, even though it went ahead both years.
Following an outbreak of violence during the 2006 gay pride march in Bucharest, police reportedly made an effort to upgrade the protection to the 2007 march. On June 9, 2007, the day began with a counter march of approximately three hundred right-wing extremists. Later, there were two separate gay activist marches. The first was a demonstration against discrimination, specifically demanding marriage equality. Some five hundred activists, guarded by seven hundred police officers, marched through the city as antigay demonstrators threw stones into the crowd. Police sprayed tear gas into the group of protesters, and made some arrests.
The second demonstration was a parade with some four hundred participants. Police trucks and over four hundred officers formed a barricade between the parade and the protestors. These barricades, however, did not protect the parade participants from cobblestones, eggs, tomatoes, and garbage thrown by the protestors. By the end of the day, over one hundred protestors were arrested. According to a report by the International Lesbian and Gay Association of Europe (ILGA-Europe), the police response was encouraging, as they were able to provide forceful protection throughout the day. After the parade, police secured many metro stations to protect the parade participants, thus learning from the previous year’s mistake, when most attacks were committed in the aftermath of the march. Following the 2007 march, five young men were charged with violent actions and 50 persons received fines for misconduct.
On May 24, 2008, the fifth annual gay pride festival was held in Bucharest without incident. Despite protests from two extreme-right groups, hundreds of people peacefully marched through the streets of their capital. The participants were under the protection of approximately twelve hundred police officers. Michael Cashman, president of the Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights at the European Parliament, was quoted saying, “I want to thank the police here today … but we should be able to march and be ourselves without the police marching along.”
Efforts to organize a gay pride parade in Moscow have been marred since 2006 by hostility from the city authorities, denunciations by community leaders, violent protests, and poor police protection. Most recently, in 2008, a march originally scheduled for May 31 was banned by the authorities. As a result, the official demonstration planned in front of the city hall was cancelled due to security concerns. Nevertheless, on June 1, a group of about thirty demonstrators gathered in another location—in front of a monument to Tchaikovsky—where they held a brief picket for LGBT rights before quickly dispersing.”
Similarly, in 2007, LGBT activists in Moscow were also denied the right to assemble for a peaceful demonstration. Days before the intended date of the 2007 gathering, organizers had submitted march plans for the Moscow Pride march to Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who banned the march repeatedly over the past years, calling it “satanic.” Participants made plans instead to assemble in front of City Hall to deliver a petition challenging the right of assembly and freedom of expression.
On May 27, 2007, police secured Tverskaya Square around city hall. Skinheads and nationalist extremists had begun occupying the square, yelling “Moscow is not Sodom! No to pederasts!” as thirty participants slowly gathered. The pride organizers were immediately arrested as they entered the square. Even as the organizers were being arrested, protesters attacked other participants while the police reportedly stood by.
At least eleven women and two men among the march participants were arrested and held for several hours in police vehicles before being taken to a police station. They were left in the heat, denied medical attention, and verbally harassed by police officers. One officer said: “no one needs lesbians, no one will ever get you out of here.” When a group of the participants were released from police custody after several hours, protesters pelted eggs and shouted hateful epithets at them.
On June 30, 2007, the seventh annual gay pride parade in Ljubljana took place with the support of local government officials, although there were reports that bystanders shouted homophobic slurs at participants, and antigay graffiti and stickers were seen in various locations around the city. Organizers reported a satisfactory police presence during the parade. However, at a gay pride event that evening, four persons attacked a gay man who subsequently required hospitalization. Police responded immediately and reported the assault as a homophobic attack, but were unable to locate the attacker.
Similarly, on June 21, 2008, the participants of the Ljubljana gay pride parade were attacked. Five marchers reported being physically assaulted at sites of parade events. In all cases, the attackers allegedly punched their victims in the face or kicked them in the head, while shouting antigay slurs. One of the victims claimed that the attackers kicked him to the point where he began to bleed.