What Is the Fighting Discrimination Program?
Since our founding in 1978, Human Rights First has worked to protect and promote fundamental human rights, holding all governments – including our own – accountable to the standards contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related international human rights instruments. Human Rights First’s mission is rooted in the premise that the world’s security and stability depend on respect for human dignity and the rule of law in every corner of the world.
Because equality is a cornerstone of human rights protection, discrimination in all its forms is a violation of human rights. Discrimination can take the form of violence generated by prejudice and hatred founded upon a person’s race, ethnicity, religious belief, sexual orientation, gender, disability, or other such factors. The Fighting Discrimination Program focuses on the violence known as hate crimes or bias crimes.
Through its Fighting Discrimination Program, Human Rights First seeks to combat discrimination by reversing the tide of antisemitic, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim violence and reducing other bias crime in North America, Europe, and the Russian Federation.
In this effort, we are looking at both the reality of violence driven by discrimination in each country and at two principal ways in which this violence can best be confronted.
The first is through hate crimes legislation and effective and equitable enforcement of criminal law to protect often vulnerable minorities. Our premise is that hate crimes should be treated as the exceptional crimes that they are and prosecuted as such, including with enhanced penalties.
Second, the fight against discrimination requires the monitoring and statistical reporting of incidents and crimes in which bias is an element – in order to provide analytical tools for policy makers and effective action to confront violence. Official anti-discrimination bodies can play a pivotal role in ensuring that monitoring occurs and effective anti-discrimination policies are then implemented.
In pursuing policy changes in these areas, Human Rights First works in cooperation with nongovernmental organizations throughout Europe and North America and advocates directly with the governments concerned and through inter-governmental organizations like the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
The Fighting Discrimination Program takes into account the intersection of hate crimes perpetrated by private citizens and state-sponsored discrimination, and works closely with Human Rights First’s other programs to fight discrimination in government policies and practices. Fighting discrimination is also a factor in our work on behalf of human rights defenders, in promoting human rights in the context of counter-terrorism measures, and in our work for refugees. At its most extreme, discriminatory violence can take the form of so-called “ethnic cleansing” or even genocide—and fall within the remit of Human Rights First’s Crimes Against Humanity Program. Work to fight hate crimes is an important part of this picture.
Joined Human Rights First in 2006
Joined Human Rights First in 2009
Innokenty (Kes) Grekov
Joined Human Rights First in 2008