National frameworks to address hate crime in Austria
This page provides information on the national frameworks to address hate crime in Austria. The information provided here should be viewed alongside data presented on Austria's hate crime report page.
Hate crime recording and data collection
In November 2020, the Ministry of Interior (MoI) introduced a new electronic recording and data collection mechanism. The mechanism is complemented by an internal police decree, which provides a monitoring definition of hate crime and quality management standards. Together, the mechanism and decree enable potential hate crimes to be flagged by recording the following bias motivations: age, handicap, gender, skin colour, national or ethnic origin, religion (including subcategories), sexual orientation, social status, and world view. A mnemonic acronym is used to check for five bias indicators and identify potential hate crimes.
The introduction of the new recording system was accompanied by large-scale training efforts for police officers. Those trained to train their peers also serve as focal points for civil society organizations and victim support organizations. The focal points also receive a regular newsletter providing updates on recent local, regional and national hate crime data, new developments and legal advice on each protected group in order to improve the quality of data.
In addition, the MoI co-operates closely with the Federal Criminal Intelligence Agency to review the data and provide feedback to those officers responsible for individual cases when corrections are needed. The MoI hate crime factsheet is available in 11 languages. In 2021, the MoI conducted together with the Institute for the Sociology of Law and Criminology (Institut für Rechts- und Kriminalsoziologie, IRKS) a representative hate crime victimization survey on unreported cases. The results of the survey were included in the 2021 Pilot Report "Hate Crime in Austria", which maps the improvements in hate crime recording and data collection in Austria since 2019.
The interfaces of the MoI/police and Ministry of Justice (MoJ) databases are synchronized so that the flagged hate crime data are also visible to prosecutors once the investigation reports are sent. The MoJ and MoI have further implemented an "identifier" for hate crimes ("VM" for Vorurteilsmotiv) in the police database (PAD) and in the judicial database (VJ and ELiAs) to enable the flagging of bias motivation. PAD is synchronized with VJ and ELiAs, so that the identifier is automatically transferred from one database to another. Prosecutors and the court can also carry out independent checks for bias motivation and initiate entries in the judicial files. This facilitates a statistical evaluation of hate crimes by bias motivation. However, while in PAD the bias motivations are broken down by categories such as age, gender and social status, etc., the corresponding interface in VJ and ELiAs only transfers the identifier "VM", but not a particular bias motivation. There is, however, the technical possibility to introduce further subcategories of the "VM" identifier in the future.
Every prosecutor and judge should use the identifier "VM" when registering an offence with bias motivation. The data warehouse regularly generates reports and special evaluations based on the available raw data, if required. The accompanying introductory decree regarding the identifier "VM" in the MoJ's judicial database was issued for the public prosecution and courts in March 2021. Aggregated statistics are accessible for judicial administration. If another authority requires access to the data and there is a legal basis for this demand, access can be granted. The access can be restricted and the raw data are generally not publicly accessible, although statistics can be made available upon request.
Hate crime victim support
Austria provides specialized support to victims of hate crime. Some victims are automatically recognized as particularly vulnerable, including those whose bodily integrity and personal autonomy were violated, victims of domestic violence and minors. Victims of hate crime do not belong to this category.
Access to victim support services in Austria is possible through multiple channels. Support services are partly financed by the state, and providers co-operate with state structures in a number of areas. Some support service providers receive additional funding through donations, and some rely on the work of volunteers. The Federal Ministry for Constitutional Affairs, Reforms, Deregulation and Justice can enter into agreements with established, suitable organizations to help fund their support to victims during criminal proceedings. The services offered include psychosocial and legal support, which are provided free of charge.
A particular role is played by the civil society organization (CSO) Weisser Ring Austria, which provides general support to all victims of crime, including those not covered by specialized victim support organizations. Weisser Ring operates an emergency helpline for victims on behalf of the Ministry of Justice. Several CSOs specifically assist hate crime victims, including the Zivilcourage und Anti-Rassismus-Arbeit (ZARA) CSO, and form part of national CSO networks.
Austria has a mandatory and formalized individual needs assessment (INA) procedure in place for hate crime victims. The INA identifies whether hate crime victims require enhanced protection based on their particular vulnerabilities, including age, emotional and physical well-being, and the circumstances of the crime. The results of the INA are not binding for the prosecution or the court and, in cases of doubt – such as when new facts arise – the need for protection can be re-examined and a different decision reached. If capacity allows, the victims of all crimes, including hate crimes, have the right to be interviewed by an official of the same sex and to decline to provide specific details of the crime. They also have the right to exclude the public from their main hearing, be informed about the release or escape of the perpetrator from custody, or consult a person of trust when being interviewed.
Currently, there is no formal system for referring hate crime victims to local authorities, CSOs, victim support services or national equality bodies. However, on receiving a report from a victim, police officers may refer them to specialized aid organizations or provide them with information on accessing support. Upon the victim’s request, free-of-charge psychosocial and legal support may be granted. The costs are initially borne by the respective victim support organization and later refunded by the Federal Ministry for Constitutional Affairs, Reforms, Deregulation and Justice.
According to procedural laws, a victim may participate as a private party in the proceedings to seek compensation for the damage or injury suffered. In addition, it is possible to assert further claims for damages in civil court proceedings. Under certain conditions, this also applies to compensation for psychological damage. These options are available to all victims, including victims of hate crime.
Hate crime capacity building
Police officers receive training on hate crimes via a three-module e-learning course delivered through the e-Campus of the Police Training Academy (Sicherheitsakademie, SIAK). Over 26,500 police officers completed the course, and over 200 officers from the Federal Provinces were trained to deliver training events to front-line officers and to serve as contact points for civil society organizations (CSOs) and victim support organizations.
The Federal Ministry of Justice (FMJ) is responsible for organizing and co-ordinating the education and training of all professional groups working at the courts, the public prosecutor's office, the data protection authority and the central office. In addition to the FMJ, the Presidents of the four Higher Regional Courts, the Senior Public Prosecutors' Offices, the Supreme Court, as well as the Association of Judges and the Association of Public Prosecutors organize training and further educational events.
Specific bias-motivated offences are covered by the compulsory initial training programme for trainee judges. The presidents of the four Higher Regional Courts are in charge of the implementation of the curriculum.
All future judges and public prosecutors follow compulsory training in the area of criminal law on victims' rights during theoretical training courses for judicial trainees, as provided for by the Code of Criminal Procedure. Moreover, they learn about the sensitive treatment of victims during a compulsory two-week assignment to a victim protection institution (e.g., the Weisser Ring CSO and women's shelters).
An e-learning course on the Systematic Investigation and Recording of Prejudice-Related Crimes is available to justice system employees and addresses the definition and impact of hate crimes. Designed by the Federal Ministry of the Interior, the course takes about 20 minutes to complete and is reviewed regularly to ensure that it is up-to-date and relevant.
Further training of judges and public prosecutors, seminars and conferences on the topics of racism and hate crimes are offered on an ongoing basis. In addition, Austrian criminal justice system employees attend specialized seminars, such as annual events hosted by the criminal law section or the juvenile criminal law section of the Association of Judges, the practitioners' seminar on criminal law, the biennial seminar on "Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure", and the Ottenstein criminal law seminar. This is supplemented by international (mostly English-language) events.