ODIHR Director Testifies on Antisemitism and Hate Crimes Data Collection

The director of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) Michael Georg Link, recently testified at a congressional hearing convened by the Helsinki Commission. Director Link informed members of Congress about his office’s work to combat antisemitism and, encouragingly, depicted it as central to his mandate.

Human Rights First has long advocated for antisemitism to be treated as a human rights issue. Its resurgence should be of great concern to governments throughout the OSCE, which stands for the Organization for Security and Cooperation and Europe. Its members include not only European countries but also those in North America and Asia, fifty-seven in all.

Link’s testimony tracks closely with our recent report on France, Breaking the Cycle of Violence: Countering Antisemitism and Extremism in France, which examines the nature and extent of antisemitism in France and provides concrete recommendations on how to combat it. Our report explores how antisemitic violence, left unchecked, leads to the persecution of other minorities, and to an overall increase in repression and intolerance.

“As Ambassador Power put it last year at the 2014 Berlin declaration commemorative event: rising antisemitism ‘is often the canary in the coal mine for degradation of human rights more broadly,’” Link said. “All OSCE participating States agree on this principle: antisemitism is indeed a worrying signal for human rights overall.”

Link noted the importance of not only documenting antisemitism as a standalone issue but also tracking discrimination against Muslims and other marginalized groups.

Our report spotlights the need for improved data collection and reporting on hate crimes. Across the OSCE region, there is a pervasive under-reporting of bias-motivated violent crimes. Director Link said that while all OSCE states have agreed to monitor and report on hate crimes, his office receives annual hate crime data from only ten. Civil society organizations can also report hate crime data to ODIHR, but only those in twenty-nine of the states do so.

Even in states that have committed to combating hate and protecting their Jewish communities, such as France, greater resolve is needed. Director Link’s engagement with members of Congress through this testimony is a welcome reminder of the U.S. role in this important security organization that places respect for human rights at the center of its mission.

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Published on February 18, 2016

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