You are here

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.

ODIHR | TANDIS



SELECT YEAR

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.

Croatia

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.

Greece

In her "Report on the visit to Greece", the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe reiterated previous recommendations for the authorities to enhance implementation of existing anti-hate crime law, to collect and analyse hate crime data in a more systematic manner and to raise public awareness of hate crime.

Latvia

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.

Lithuania

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.

Moldova

In its "Fifth report on Moldova", the Council of Europe's European Commission against Racism and Intolerance recommended that the authorities put in place a system to record hate crimes, collect and publish hate crime data, and ensure that hate crimes are effectively investigated. To these ends, ECRI recommended that the authorities increase its training efforts for police officers and justice officials, and implement confidence-building measures to enhance the relationship between the police and vulnerable groups, in particular, the Roma and the LGBT community.

Montenegro

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.

Portugal

In its "Fifth report on Portugal", the Council of Europe's European Commission against Racism and Intolerance commended the appointment of four specialized hate crime prosecutors. ECRI recommended that the authorities adopt a broad definition of hate crime based on victims' perceptions and put in place a set of guidelines enabling improved registration and effective processing of such incidents, as well as the production of reliable statistics.

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.

Serbia

In the proceeds from the "Fifth meeting of the EU-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Council", the European Union noted with concern that the investigation, prosecution and penalties for hate crimes against LGBT people are often inadequate and encouraged Serbia to ensure adequate prosecution of all hate crimes.

Spain

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.

OSCE Region

In its "General policy recommendation No. 2: Equality Bodies to Combat Racism and Intolerance at the National Level", the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) recommended that equality bodies provide personal support and legal advice to people exposed to hate crime and refer these people to the competent authorities.

In its report "Being Black in the EU", the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) recommended that states improve access to redress and support for the victims of hate crime, namely through applying the Guiding Principles relating to hate crime and victim support agreed by the EU High Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance.

In its report entitled "Civil society space: views of organizations", FRA recommended that states should condemn hate crimes committed against civil society organizations and their members, and collect and publish data on these hate crimes.

In its "Conclusions on the application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights in 2017", the Council of the EU invited states to criminalize various forms of hate crime, investigate and prosecute them effectively, improve recording and collect and publish reliable data.

In its resolution on "Minimum standards for minorities in the EU", the European Parliament called on states to design specific national plans to tackle xenophobic violence and encouraged states to set up anti-hate crime units in police services.

In its "Recommendation to member States on the need to strengthen the protection and promotion of civil society space in Europe", the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers recommended that states prohibit various forms of hate crime by law and conduct effective investigations into hate crime cases.

In the "General Comment No. 36 on ICCPR Article 6", the United Nations Human Rights Committee states that states must enact effective criminal prohibitions on hate crimes, with sanctions commensurate with their gravity.

In its report "Hate crime recording and data collection practice across the EU", the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) observed that only 15 EU states report hate crime data disaggregated by bias motivation. FRA also noted that the collection of detailed and disaggregated data on hate crime is necessary to monitor the effectiveness of the police response and to prepare effective and targeted policies.

In its report "Challenges facing civil society organisations working on human rights in the EU", the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) recommended that states condemn hate crimes committed against civil society organizations and their members.