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November 30, 2016

Scorecard on Hate Crime Response in the OSCE Region

Against a backdrop of increasing hateful rhetoric in the public space, as well as acts of discrimination and hate crimes, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) released its annual report on hate crimes in the OSCE region. This report is essential to understanding hate crimes and crafting effective policy responses.

Every year since 2009, ODIHR releases this report on the International Day for Tolerance, and every year since 2010, Human Rights First and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) analyze ODIHR’s findings and rate countries’ performances in keeping their commitment to track and report hate crimes.

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This year in particular demonstrates why this work is critical. Xenophobic and hateful rhetoric dominated political discourse is several OSCE participating States, and this rhetoric was often matched with hate-inspired violence.

What leaders say matters, and often those committing hate crimes use the rhetoric of politicians to legitimize their violence. From the Brexit campaign in the United Kingdom, to the refugee referendum in Hungary, to the U.S. presidential election, toxic rhetoric has infected citizens of these countries and emboldened those who seek to spread hate and violence.

ODIHR’s annual report is an important tool in understanding the nature and frequency of hate crimes across the OSCE region. However, its utility is minimized when participating States do not collect or report data, provide insufficient data, or fail to submit data by the ODIHR deadline. Data may be insufficient if it records an implausibly low level of hate crimes or when it is not disaggregated by bias motivation.

The data from this year’s report, covering 2015, demonstrates that participating States continue to fail, or barely pass, in upholding their commitments to prevent and combat hate crime. In the current environment, with the refugee crisis, the rise of far-right parties and movements espousing hatred, and a rise in bias-motivated incidents throughout the region, there is an urgent need for prevention, data collection, and reporting to receive higher priority.