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Racism and xenophobia

Racism is prejudice or hostility towards a person's race, colour, language, nationality, or national or ethnic origin. While some communities are particularly vulnerable, any ethnic group can be the target of racism. Intolerant discourse in the media or from politicians can lead to increased racist sentiments towards migrants and other minorities, including in the form of scapegoating in times of economic crisis. ODIHR's annual reporting on hate crime in the OSCE area has demonstrated that racist attacks can take a range of forms, targeting people from diverse groups across the region. Violent attacks by groups of perpetrators against migrants and ethnic minorities, as well as damage to businesses and property owned by or associated with established ethnic communities are common features of this type of crime.

The OSCE has long recognized the threat to international security posed by racism, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance. Participating States condemned racial and ethnic hatred as early 1990. At the Ministerial Council meeting in Maastricht in 2003, participating States committed themselves to combat hate crimes fuelled by racist or xenophobic propaganda and to publicly denounce such crimes.

Most participating States reported that they record hate crime data according to at least one category related to racism and xenophobia, such as "race"/colour, nationality/ethnicity/national origin, citizenship or language. The differences in recording and reporting policies among participating States present a number of challenges for ODIHR when interpreting and verifying information received. Data from different participating States can be incomparable due, for example, to inconsistencies about which groups are legally protected and monitored. There is also a risk that the same data might be double counted in general statistics. For example, anti-Semitic hate crime might be reported separately or included under the broader category of racist hate crime, or both. While the number of NGOs reporting to ODIHR has increased, victims' negative experiences in police responses and a lack of capacity of NGOs to monitor and report on the phenomenon contribute to the problem of under-reporting.



International Reports

Bosnia and Herzegovina

In its "Concluding observations on the combined twelfth and thirteenth periodic reports of Bosnia and Herzegovina", the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) recommended that the authorities effectively apply existing legislation by registering, investigating, and bringing to justice cases of hate speech and hate crime, and by sanctioning those responsible with the appropriate penalties.


In its fifth report on Croatia, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) observed that many cases of hate crime, especially those targeting Serbs, LGBT people and Roma, are only classified as misdemeanours. ECRI recommended that the bias motive be incorporated from the very beginning in investigations and training for police officers and judicial officials.


In its "Concluding observations on the combined sixth to twelfth periodic reports of Latvia", the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) recommended that the Latvian authorities prioritize the collection of reliable and comprehensive statistics disaggregated by the ethnicity of the victims, reports, investigations, prosecutions, convictions and sanctions for racist hate crimes. CERD also recommended that the authorities develop training programmes on suitable methods for identifying, registering, investigating and prosecuting racist incidents and hate crimes.


In its "Concluding observations on the fourth periodic report of Lithuania", the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) recommended that the Lithuanian authorities encourage the reporting of hate crimes and ensure their prompt identification and registration as such, including through the establishment of a comprehensive and disaggregated data-collection system.


In its "Concluding observations on the combined fourth to sixth periodic reports of Montenegro", the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) expressed concern at violence against Roma people and at the absence of updated and comprehensive disaggregated data on hate crimes. The Committee recommended that the authorities firmly counter acts of racist violence against any ethnic group, in particular Roma, and punish perpetrators with sanctions commensurate to their acts.

San Marino

In its fifth report on San Marino, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) recommended that the authorities raise awareness of and train officials on hate crime.


In its fifth report on Spain, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) recommended that the law enforcement authorities further improve the system for recording and monitoring hate crime.