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July 09, 2018

Scorecard on Hate Crime Response in the OSCE Region: Gaps in Data Collection and Responses

Hate crimes undermine social cohesion, basic guarantees of security, and the democratic ideals of equality and non-discrimination. When a Muslim woman is attacked for wearing a hijab, or a Jewish man is beaten for wearing a kippah, the effects ripple far beyond the individual incident. Hate crimes strike not only at an individual victim’s sense of identity, but at whole communities, which can be left feeling victimized, vulnerable, fearful, isolated, and unprotected by the law. Hate crimes undermine social cohesion, basic guarantees of security, and the democratic ideals of equality and non-discrimination.

Given their broad and devastating impact, hate crimes must be viewed as serious human rights violations that merit special attention. Regrettably, the overwhelming majority of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) 57 participating States are not doing everything they can to ensure such treatment.

In January 2016, unknown assailants threw a hand grenade into a refugee shelter in VillingenSchwenningen, Germany. Fortunately, the grenade did not explode, and authorities were able to evacuate the shelter without significant injury. This incident was one of the more than 3,500 attacks and other crimes against refugees, migrants, and asylum shelters recorded by German authorities in 2016, which left at least 560 people injured. 

In July 2016, a man brutally murdered a black transgender woman in Mississippi by stabbing her 119 times.4 She was among the at least 23 transgender people shot, stabbed, or killed by violent means in the United States in 2016.5 In France, Jewish men wearing religious attire were stabbed by assailants reportedly motivated by anti-Semitic ideology, both in Marseilles in January 2016 and in Strasbourg that August. 

These stories represent just several of the tens of thousands of potential hate crimes committed within the OSCE region in 2016. Every year since 2009, the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) has attempted to count these crimes in their annual hate crime report, which is released on November 16, the International Day for Tolerance. Every year since 2010, Human Rights First and the AntiDefamation League (ADL) analyze ODIHR’s findings and rate participating States’ compliance with their commitments to track and report hate crimes.

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