ODIHR's impact in 2021: Delivering tools to support hate crime victims
Hate crimes are distinct from other types of crime, as they target victims simply for who they are. Consequently, the emotional and psychological trauma caused by hate crime can be profound and long-lasting due to the close link with victims' identities. This is why the victims of hate crime require specialist protection and support that ensure their individual needs are met.
These needs vary from person to person and may evolve throughout the course of a hate crime investigation, as the impact of the crime and possible criminal proceedings unfold. Providing effective support to hate crime victims, therefore, requires a comprehensive system built on the structured co-operation of multiple actors and agencies.
That is why ODIHR's project on Enhancing Stakeholder Awareness and Resources for Hate Crime Victim Support (EStAR) is helping States build an effective system of hate crime victim support. After mapping the support structures in 41 project countries, ODIHR – together with its project partner, the Association of Counseling Centers for Victims of Right-wing, Racist and Antisemitic Violence in Germany (VBRG) – delivered a number of tools for improving hate crime victim support and protection.
"The EStAR project provides a wealth of tools and good practices to improve Spain's hate crime victim support system, such as on conducting individual needs assessments and co-ordinating support services. Following the diagnostic workshop, ODIHR's recommendations were incorporated into Spain's second Action Plan for Combating Hate Crimes (2022–24)."
— Javier López Gutiérrez, Head of the Statistical System and Victims Support Area
Key among these is the project's diagnostic tool, a unique practical methodology for individual practitioners and institutions to pinpoint problem areas towards developing robust national hate crime victim support systems. The tool guides the assessment across the essential building blocks to understand the forms of support, protection and access to justice that hate crime victims receive.
The tool can be applied in different settings, as demonstrated during diagnostic workshops organized as part of the EStAR project in Spain and Croatia. These workshops took a hands-on approach, beginning with a survey for participants to assess their national hate crime victim support systems, followed by a guided analysis of the results to unpack the challenges and opportunities at the national level, and ending with a results report to summarize the findings and provide recommendations.
Additionally, last year ODIHR published a comprehensive set of model guidelines, including Model Quality Standards for Hate Crime Victim Support, Model Guidance on Individual Needs Assessments of Hate Crime Victims and Model Guidance on Sensitive and Respectful Treatment of Hate Crime Victims in the Criminal Justice System. In developing these tools and resources, the EStAR project drew on a wide range of experiences and expertise, for example members of the EStAR expert network, victim support providers, criminal justice officials and civil society representatives in the course of numerous events.
ODIHR worked to develop creative formats to overcome constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. These included two virtual study visits, first to France to showcase how hate crime victims' protection and support needs are identified and addressed, and then to Germany to understand the role of enhanced co-operation between criminal justice agencies and victim support organizations. Other events held under the auspices of the project include a public webinar on restorative justice solutions for hate crime, a regional workshop on improving national hate crime victim support systems in Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans, and a training session for police in Oslo on sensitive and respectful treatment of hate crime victims.
Underpinning the EStAR project is the understanding that hate crime victims require specialist support to repair the harm done to them and enable effective access to justice. The EStAR project's victim-centred approach has helped to inform the work of the European Commission's Working Group on Hate Crime Victim Support (part of the High-Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance). The project's practical tools will continue to provide a firm foundation towards improving national hate crime victim support systems in the years to come.