In both Europe and the United States, hate crimes are rising along with the public expressions of hatred fanned by extreme political forces. Immediately following Brexit, which was fueled in part by xenophobia, there was a significant uptick in hate crimes in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe. And in the wake of the recent U.S. election, we have been watching with alarm as overt racism, antisemitism, and anti-Muslim bigotry frighten citizens and vulnerable groups.
This is unacceptable for democratic nations committed to protecting the fundamental rights of all people, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, or gender. Hate crimes have a widespread corrosive impact as they terrorize not only direct victims but entire communities.
Today, the International Day for Tolerance, the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights released its report assessing whether OSCE countries are making good on their pledge to fight hate crimes and promote tolerance. The OSCE, which includes 57 states of Europe, Eurasia, the United States, and Canada, is built on the principle that human rights are essential to security.
Unfortunately, while there is a growing recognition that fighting hate crimes is essential to the foundation of a democratic society, progress is slow. In an annual scorecard report, jointly produced by Human Rights First and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), we find year after year that OSCE states fall short. In the report on 2014 data, released last year, only 36 of the 57 participating states submitted information to the ODIHR for 2014. Half either did not report at all or reported zero crimes for their country.
As ODIHR releases its data this year, we will be looking for broader and better participation in these key areas:
- Are more OSCE states participating in the reporting process?
- Are more states providing disaggregated and detailed data? This includes data disaggregated by bias motivation, disaggregated by type of crime, and more detail on prosecutions. This level of detail is essential in crafting effective policy responses.
- Is the data consistent with trends that have been monitored and documented through other sources? For example, Human Rights First has been monitoring a spike in hate crimes in Germany as a sad byproduct of fear mongering by far-right forces as a reaction to the refugee crisis. We expect the OSCE data to validate such trends.
- Is state data credible? A number of states reported conspicuously low numbers last year (like 0 or 1), which is neither credible nor acceptable. We will assess whether they have bettered their performance in the 2015 reporting year.
- What does the data not tell us? A decline in the number of hate crimes reported is not necessarily a positive figure, nor is the fact that a country has reported an increase in hate crimes a sign of necessary concern. It may be that states have improved their capacity to report hate crimes and therefore this would be seen as a step towards more effective enforcement of the hate crime laws. This year, we will be looking beyond the data collection efforts to understand efforts to prevent and respond to hate crimes.
We urge you to stay tuned for the release of the annual Human Rights First and ADL report on hate crimes in the OSCE region. We hope that it can serve as a tool to hold governments accountable and press them to combat hate crimes and remain vigilant in protecting all citizens.