Intergovernmental Report: Hate Crime Remains a Significant Problem in Europe and North America

(New York, NY November 16, 2009) The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) today released its annual report “Hate Crimes in the OSCE Region Incidents and Responses,” concluding that hate crime is still a significant problem throughout a region that includes 56 countries in North America, Europe, and the former Soviet Union. To compliment the intergovernmental report, U.S. international rights groups Human Rights First (HRF) and Anti-Defamation League (ADL) issued a reaction paper that highlights the failure of many of the OSCE states to fulfill commitments to combat the problem. According to the report of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), 2008 saw murders, arson, beatings, vandalism and other crimes targeted against persons or groups because of their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or other status. The scarcely available official government figures tracking such crimes underscore the importance of strengthening state responses to hate crimes, including through enactment of legislation, data collection, and sharing of best practices. “It is unacceptable that eight governments did not submit any data to the ODIHR, and five other countries submitted questionnaires indicating no efforts to collect data, a failure that goes against these governments’ official OSCE commitments.,” said Human Rights First’s Paul LeGendre. “Also troubling is that nine countries reported fewer than ten incidents for all of 2008, figures that are in some cases considerably lower than those documented by credible nongovernmental organizations.” The Human Rights First and Anti-Defamation League analysis, based on the ODIHR’s reporting and their own documentation on the subject, offers specific recommendations tailored to states’ varying levels of adherence to commitments to combat hate crimes. Today, only 14 of the 56 member states have adequate hate crime monitoring and reporting systems in place, and 22 countries lack legislative provisions that address hate crime. Even among those that have such provisions, the legislation extends to sexual orientation bias in only thirteen countries. Last month, the United States enhanced its own federal hate crime legislation to include sexual orientation and gender identity when President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law. “The ODIHR’s annual report confirms nongovernmental and media reports suggesting that hate crime continues to be a serious challenge for governments throughout the region in 2008.” noted LeGendre. According to LeGendre, the horrific beheading of a Tajik migrant worker in Moscow, the brutal murder of a Congolese asylum seeker in Kyiv, the vigilante attacks on Roma camps in Italy, the aggressive assaults on LGBT pride parades in Eastern Europe, the unrepentant beating to death of a Mexican immigrant in front of his American fiance

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Published on November 16, 2009

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