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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. Successive ODIHR annual reports on hate crime in the OSCE area have 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.

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International Reports

Andorra

In its fifth report on Andorra, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) strongly recommended that the authorities strengthen their ability to collect data on racist, homophobic and transphobic hate crime.

Armenia

In its "Concluding observations on the combined seventh to eleventh periodic reports of Armenia," the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) recommended the introduction of a separate definition of hate crime, and its prohibition in Armenian criminal law.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

In its third report on Bosnia and Herzegovina, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) recommended that bias motivation be made an aggravating circumstance at the state and entity levels where this is not yet the case. ECRI also recommended that the authorities expand training on hate crimes that would include violence against returnees, religious communities and LGBT people; and that the police duly investigate homophobic and transphobic incidents, while taking motivations into account.

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 local authorities ensure the appropriate implementation of existing hate crime provisions.​

Bulgaria

In its "Concluding observations on the combined twentieth to twenty-second periodic reports of Bulgaria," the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) recommended the appointment of specialized hate crime prosecutors.

Canada

In the report on its mission to Canada, the United Nations Human Rights Council's Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, observed that the prosecutors play a crucial role in requesting from judges that sentences be aggravated by racist motivation and therefore recommended improving the understanding of anti-Black racism among prosecutors and judges. 

In its concluding observation on periodic reports of Canada, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) expressed concern that racist hate crimes remain under-reported and that the racist hate crime is not tracked consistently across Canada's ten provinces. CERD also expressed concern at the increase in hate crimes targeting Muslims. CERD recommended that Canada facilitate reporting by victims, ensure the effective investigation of racist hate crimes and prosecute and sanction perpetrators. It recommended that Canada should also systematically track hate crimes across the criminal justice system, train law enforcement and judges on how to recognize and register hate crimes and address the reasons for the increase in hate crime targeting Muslims.

Croatia

In his report following a visit to Croatia, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe urged the authorities to improve the hate crime recording system and to systematically train law enforcement and legal professionals.

Cyprus

In its "Concluding observations on the combined twenty-third and twenty-fourth periodic reports of Cyprus," the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) recommended that local authorities enforce legislative provisions to prosecute perpetrators of hate crimes to deter further crimes and prevent impunity of perpetrators. CERD also recommended raising awareness of available complaint mechanisms, and to continue training law enforcement officers on the investigation of hate crimes.

Denmark

In its fifth report on Denmark, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) recommended continuous hate crime training for police officers and prosecutors, in co-operation with ODIHR and affected communities. ECRI also recommended that a new system be introduced to track hate crimes throughout the judicial process.

Estonia

In its report, the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Estonia recommended the strengthening of hate crime provisions to make sure that bias motivation is considered an aggravating factor in any crime.

Finland

In its report, the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) for Finland, recommended that the authorities take measures to reduce the number of anti-religious hate crimes, ensure that hate crimes are effectively investigated and that law enforcement, security and judicial authorities be trained and have guidelines to address hate crimes against immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees.

Georgia

In observations published following a visit to Georgia, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe recommended that bias motive be consistently taken into account as an aggravating circumstance and that hate crimes receive punishment commensurate with the gravity of the offence.

Germany

In the report on its mission to Germany, the United Nations Human Rights Council's Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent expressed concerns over the state's failure to protect people of African descent from hate crimes. The working group recommended the adoption of a comprehensive training strategy for police officers to end the racial profiling of people of African descent and specialized training for prosecutors and judges on identifying hate crimes.

Greece

In a letter to the Ministries of Interior and Justice following his visit to Greece, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe stressed the need to enhance the implementation of hate crime laws and to collect and analyze hate crime data more systematically.

Iceland

In its fifth report on Iceland, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) noted the appointment of a specialized police officer responsible for working on hate crimes.

Italy

In its "Concluding observations on the combined nineteenth and twentieth periodic reports of Italy," the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) recommended the investigation, prosecution and punishment of all perpetrators of hate crimes. CERD also recommended that local authorities collect data systematically, increase the reporting of hate crimes and strengthen the hate crime provisions to also cover mixed motivations.

Latvia

In its report, the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Latvia recommended the strengthening of the hate crime provisions in criminal law and that the authorities organize training on hate crimes for police and judicial officials.

In his report following a visit to Latvia, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe urged the authorities to build the capacity of police, prosecutors and judges to effectively investigate, prosecute and punish all hate crimes.

Luxembourg

In its fifth report on Luxembourg, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) strongly recommended that bias motivation be made an aggravating circumstance for any ordinary offence. ECRI also recommended that the police and judicial authorities establish and use a system for recording and monitoring hate crimes.

Moldova

In its "Concluding observations on the combined tenth and eleventh periodic reports of Moldova," the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) expressed concern about the lack of hate crime legislation and recommended that  the investigation and prosecution of all hate crimes is ensured, as well as that date are provided on the numbers of cases.

Montenegro

In its fifth report on Montenegro, the Council of Europe's European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) commended the improved protection of Roma people against hate crime but observed that LGBT people remain at high risk of being targeted. ECRI recommended that the authorities introduce a coherent system for recording hate crimes and collecting data and that they scale-up the training of criminal justice personnel and ensure that this training specifically addresses the identification of hate crimes. ECRI also recommended that the authorities provide clear instructions to the police about how to investigate hate crimes.

Netherlands

In its report, the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) for the Netherlands, recommended that the criminal code be amended to include an aggravating circumstance provision specifically addressing hate crimes; and strengthen the prosecution of hate crimes motivated by bias against LGBT people.

Poland

In the framework of Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the United Nations Human Rights Committee expressed concern that Poland's criminal code did not include disability, age, sexual orientation and gender identity as bias motivations for hate crimes. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) recommended that Poland amend its criminal code to make any racial motivation for a crime an aggravating circumstance.

In its report, the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) for Poland, recommended that the criminal code be amended to include sexual orientation, gender identity and disability among the protected characteristics listed in its hate crime provisions.

In its "Concluding observations on the fourth report of Poland," the United Nations Human Rights Committee recommended that the authorities should amend the Criminal Code to make bias motivation an aggravating circumstance for any crime, and to thoroughly investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of hate crimes.

Russian Federation

In its concluding observation on periodic reports of the Russian Federation, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) recommended that the Russian authorities concentrate their efforts on responding seriously to racist attacks carried out by ultra-nationalists, neo-Nazi groups and Cossack patrols. CERD also recommended that the authorities ensure adequate punishment for perpetrators of hate crimes and develop training courses for criminal justice agencies on hate crime identification, investigation and prosecution.

Serbia

In its third report on Serbia, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) recommended the designation and specialized training of contact points within the police and prosecution services across the country for vulnerable groups; the establishment of a hate crime data recording and collection system; and prompt investigation, prosecution and sentencing in hate crime cases. ECRI further recommended that prosecutors make explicit reference to the aggravating circumstance provision in indictments, when relevant.

Slovakia

In its "Concluding observations on the fourth report of Slovakia," the United Nations Human Rights Committee recommended preventive measures to counter racist attacks and to ensure the thorough investigation and prosecution of alleged perpetrators.

Sweden

In its "Concluding observations on the combined twenty-second and twenty-third periodic reports of Sweden," the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) recommended that Sweden develop a clear strategy to ensure better scrutiny of the way police and prosecutors deal with hate crimes.

Ukraine

In its fifth report on Ukraine, the Council of Europe's European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) commended Ukraine's progress in investigating hate crimes and introducing specialized police officers. ECRI also noted the need to step up efforts to end racist violence against LGBT and Roma people. ECRI recommended that an independent investigative body be set up to address allegations of racially-motivated misconduct by the police, and that protected characteristics should be added to all relevant hate crime provisions in the criminal code, particularly sexual orientation and gender identity.

United Kingdom

In its report, the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) for the United Kingdom, recommended that the authorities efficiently implement the government's new "Hate Crime Action Plan" and monitor its implementation as a means of reviewing approaches by criminal justice agencies to increasing hate crime.

OSCE Region

In their report, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance observed that fear of terrorism and racist and xenophobic speech often translate into increases in hate crimes targeting Muslims, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. The Special Rapporteur reiterated the importance of collecting disaggregated data on hate crimes.

The OSCE Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on Policies and Strategies to further Promote Tolerance and Non-Discrimination recommended strengthening the implementation of existing OSCE commitments on hate crimes.

In his "Report on Combating the glorification of Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance," the United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance recommended making bias motivation an aggravating circumstance in domestic criminal law. The Special Rapporteur also called on governments to promptly investigate and prosecute hate crimes, ensure the rights of victims of hate crimes, collect disaggregated data on hate crimes, and build the capacity of civil society active in this field.

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) released an online compendium of good practices in addressing hate crimes.

In its "Report on research among judicial experts on justice for hate crime victims" the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) recommended adopting a more comprehensive and co-ordinated approach to establishing support services for hate crime victims.

In its "Fundamental Rights Report 2017", the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) emphasized the need to systematically record, collect and publish annually comparable data on hate crime, including on incidents targeting refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.

The European Parliament adopted a "Resolution on Combating Anti-Semitism," which denounced violence against European Jewish citizens and encouraged cross-border co-operation in addressing hate crime, including through the collection of reliable data.

The European Court of Human Rights, in its judgment in the Skorjanec v. Croatia case, addressing a physical assault on the wife of a Roma man, explicitly stated, for the first time, that people can still be victims of hate crime by association, even if they do not carry the targeted protected characteristic.

In its report, the United Nations Human Rights Council's Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, recommended collecting data on hate crimes disaggregated by gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability and other characteristics.