In order to address the problem of racist violence and other forms of intolerance, Human Rights First urges the respective Ukrainian authorities to implement the following recommendations:
- Law enforcement agencies should publicly commit to investigate allegations of bias motives in specific violent crimes committed against people of other races and creeds, including foreigners and migrants, and to provide regular public updates into the investigation and prosecution of such crimes.
- The Interior Minister should ensure that the ministry’s special unit responsible for combating ethnic crimes has clear guidelines to address crimes—including those committed against foreigners—that are motivated by racism and xenophobia. If the ministry deems necessary to specifically monitor crimes committed by foreigners (as this unit also does), this should be undertaken by a separate unit
- The Interior Ministry should develop an internal protocol mandating police officers and investigators to record bias motives in the commission of a crime. The Interior Ministry should commit to making data on the incidence of violent hate crimes public—an important step toward improved public policy on combating hate crime.
- The Ukrainian authorities should provide training for police and prosecutors in identifying and recording bias motivations, and in bringing evidence of bias motivations before the courts. They should commit to take advantage of training opportunities available by international organizations, e.g., the OSCE’s Law Enforcement Officer Program on Combating Hate Crimes, and on a bilateral basis, e.g. through the United States Department of Justice as well as through international and local nongovernmental organizations working in Ukraine.
- Law enforcement officials should take steps—including by reaching out to community and other nongovernmental groups—to increase the confidence of hate crime victims to report crimes to the police. The authorities should ensure thorough investigation of any reports of police harassment of hate crime victims and ensure the prosecution of offenders.
As a follow-up to steps already taken by the government, we further recommend the following:
- The Ukrainian authorities should reach an agreement with the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), identifying specific areas in which ODIHR would provide technical support and assistance to combat violent hate crimes, including through expanded law enforcement training.
- The Ukrainian authorities should ensure regular public reporting of the concrete actions, achievements, and shortcomings of the special units on combating racism and xenophobia created in the Interior Ministry and the State Security Service, State Committee for Nationalities and Religion, the Foreign Ministry’s special envoy and the recently created Inter-Ministerial Commission on combating racism, xenophobia, and discrimination. The Inter-Ministerial Commission should be entrusted with adequate authority and sufficient resources to address the problem.
- These bodies should formalize outreach to civil society, including by meeting on a regular basis with nongovernmental organizations in the framework of the Diversity Initiative, a coordination group of organizations based in Ukraine and dealing with the problem of hate crimes.
- The Ukrainian authorities should work to pass legislation to strengthen the criminal law on violent hate crimes. In particular, consideration of racial motivation under Article 67 should be mandatory rather than discretionary. The article, which regrettably has never been invoked, allows for a motive of “racial, national, or religious hatred” to be considered an aggravating circumstance by a judge in determining the sentence. The systematic use of such penalty enhancement provisions in appropriate cases will send a strong message of condemnation of hate crimes.