To confront the menace of any form of violent crime it is essential to know what happened, where, when, and to whom, with a view to punishment, deterrence, and protection. The same holds for hate crimes—acts of violence motivated by bias based on race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, disability, or other similar attributes, or a combination thereof. If such crimes are to be deterred and future victims protected there is also a need to develop a system of data collection and public reporting that distinguish the elements of discrimination that drive these crimes and the particular populations under threat.
Transparent systems of monitoring and reporting are also essential to determine whether the law is in fact being enforced, and enforced equitably. The most effective monitoring systems not only register incidents and offences, but also track them through the criminal justice system, from the moment charges are filed to the outcome of cases before juries or judges.
International human rights standards provide a strong framework for the protection of all people against discrimination. Additionally, there are a series of opinions, standards, and directives that provide authoritative guidance and sometimes binding norms on the way in which international guarantees against discrimination should be implemented. Among these, E.U., Council of Europe, and OSCE norms provide detailed special attention to the fight against violence motivated by racism and related intolerance through effective monitoring and reporting, among other things. Most recently, in December 2007, OSCE states committed to “collect and maintain reliable data and statistics on hate crimes and incidents.” Human Rights First discussed these norms in more detail in its December 2007 Hate Crime Report Card.
The quality of the data provided by government agencies on violent hate crimes varies widely throughout the OSCE region. In our Hate Crime Report Card, Human Rights First looked across the 56 countries of the OSCE to assess the type of data that is collected, which government bodies are collecting that data, as well as what the data says about the characteristics of the victims and the bias motivations. In light of the fact that few governments collect comprehensive data, we also discussed the various obstacles hindering better data collection and public reporting.
This report aims to update our findings by looking at developments—both positive and negative—in the ways in which states are meeting their commitments to develop systems of monitoring and public reporting on violent hate crimes.
In the European Union, the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) regularly assesses the quality of data collection mechanisms for the registration of racist crimes in E.U. countries using a four-tier system. In its latest assessment, FRA determined that only 11 countries—down from 12 in its previous assessment—have data collections systems that are either “comprehensive” or “good.” Those countries include:
- Tier 1—Comprehensive (Extensive data collection, with detail about victim and offender characteristics): Finland, Sweden, the United Kingdom.
- Tier 2—Good (A system exists to register incidents/crimes, and/or the system focuses on right-wing extremism): Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Poland, Slovakia.
Since its previous assessment, FRA re-evaluated the quality of reporting and made an adjustment to two countries within these two tiers. Sweden was upgraded from “good” to “comprehensive” as a result of improvements introduced by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention to the categorization of hate crimes. On the contrary, Belgium, previously a Tier 2 country, was downgraded to a Tier 3 country due to the fact that information from criminal justice sources about racist crime is not transparent and only available upon request.
Countries with limited or no official data include the following:
- Tier 3—Limited (Limited reporting on investigations and court cases or focus on general discrimination): Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg,Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia.
- Tier 4—No official data available (No official data collected or readily available in the public domain): Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Spain. There have been reports of bias-motivated violence in all of these countries.
FRA similarly re-evaluated several countries’ positions with regard to these tiers. Italy shifted from Tier 4 to Tier 3 after the government provided hate crime data upon a request from the FRA’s National Focal Point. Portugal was similarly upgraded from Tier 4 to Tier 3 because “limited data is sporadically available from year to year.” Romania, on the contrary, moved from to Tier 4 from Tier 3 because it failed to provide information on the relevant legal articles.
Outside of the E.U., only Canada and the United States have well-developed reporting systems. There are no countries in southeastern Europe or the former Soviet Union with such systems of monitoring and regular public reporting expressly on violent hate crimes.
Thus, only 13 of the 56 participating states of the OSCE are fulfilling their basic commitments to monitor hate crimes, with countries in the European Union and North America leading the way. These countries include: Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Ireland, Poland, Slovakia, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
While a number of other governments provide some limited statistics—although more frequently on nonviolent violations of hate speech laws than on violent hate crimes—over 40 states provide only limited or no public reporting specifically on the incidence of violent hate crimes. Those states include: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Holy See, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, the Russian Federation, San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.