Saturday May 23, 2015 Search
Weather | Athens
14o C
09o C
News
Business
Comment
Life
Sports
Community
Survival Guide
Greek Edition
Ignoring hate crime at our peril

By Morten Kjaerum & Janez Lenarcic*

Some people think that hate crime is no longer an issue in Europe. Others think that the issue is no longer a serious one, as it only affects a few marginal groups. This is a mistake. You may not have heard of the Roma man who was threatened with an ax in front of his 2-year-old daughter, or the Jewish man who was fired at with an air rifle as he left a Torah class. This still happens in Europe, today. So hate crimes crimes motivated by prejudice are a reality, and they need to be recognized and decisively confronted.

Much greater political will is needed to combat the phenomenon lastingly and effectively. Governments must send a clear message that there is zero tolerance for hate crime by taking concrete steps to counter prejudice and discrimination. They must make hate crime more visible, both by recording it efficiently and by drawing public attention to it, and by making perpetrators accountable, through penalties that underscore the severity of the crimes.

Such crimes motivated by racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia or anti-Semitism, or by bias against disability or sexual orientation strike at the heart of our diverse and democratic societies. And over the last few years, we have witnessed continued and repeated violations of peoples human rights through verbal abuse, physical attacks and even murder motivated by prejudice.

These are not like other forms of crime. Hate crimes foster and reinforce social divides. They don't just harm individuals, they also undermine the security of entire communities and, ultimately, society as a whole. The crimes themselves are often coupled with indifference by decision makers. They also reinforce their sense of alienation from mainstream society. And beyond physical harm, hate crimes have a lasting emotional impact on victims and their families, who often experience an overwhelming sense of humiliation and powerlessness.

Hate crime offenders send a clear message that some of us are lesser human beings, lesser citizens who can be harmed with impunity. Their actions are, therefore, serious affronts to the fundamental right to human dignity and equal treatment. Moreover, hate crimes are not just committed by political extremists, as many assume: Offenders come from all walks of life. Despite the progress we have achieved in promoting democracy and human rights, prejudice and bias against those with a different skin color or religion, or with disabilities to name but a few are still widespread and regularly spill over into violence against the most vulnerable of our citizens.

There are also a number of external factors that can exacerbate the incidence and seriousness of hate attacks. A case in point is the current economic crisis: In the countries that have been hit hardest, there seems to be an alarming escalation in bias-motivated crime against migrants and other groups. And history has taught us bitter lessons about the consequences of not being vigilant against such crimes; the search for scapegoats in the 1930s that preceded and then accompanied the rise of extremism is still very much fresh in Europes collective memory.

The work of human rights bodies such as the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is doing much to highlight the problem of hate crime and the challenges inherent in battling the phenomenon. This includes FRAs publication of figures on the minority and ethnic groups most likely to be targets of hate crime in the EU, and ODIHRs annual publication of data on hate crimes in the OSCE region. ODIHR also helps NGOs to monitor and report hate crimes, and has provided training for law enforcement agencies to improve investigation and prosecution rates.

Both organizations continue to identify crucial gaps in national data collection techniques. In addition, many victims find it difficult to seek full redress, as the courts frequently do not acknowledge the bias and prejudice at the root of hate crimes because of shortcomings in legislation.

Other victims are unwilling to seek redress because they do not trust law enforcement authorities or the criminal justice system. Weaknesses in the way hate crimes are recorded or investigated by the police create further barriers. FRAs research has revealed that among some minority groups, up to 90 percent of those who were victims of hate crime did not report it to the police. This is a figure that should give governments throughout the EU pause for thought.

If we do not do more to record, investigate and prosecute hate crimes, and if we do not ensure that victims have access to remedy and compensation for their suffering, we could seriously jeopardize social cohesion and security. In the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, this is something we can ill afford. Let us therefore work together to combat hate crime for what it is an injustice based on ignorance and prejudice that has no place in Europe today.

----------

* Morten Kjaerum is director of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights.

Ambassador Janez Lenarcic is director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

ekathimerini.com , Thursday December 13, 2012 (16:47)  
Consensus is key
The other inequality: how the state spends our money
Reform not stimulus is way out for Greece
A catalyst for change
Deal no closer following PMs meetings in Riga
Athens believes that Greece could still clinch an agreement with its lenders but probably at the start of June, rather than by the end of this month as it had previously hoped, following the...
Greece to back NATO-led campaign against ISIS, Kammenos says
Greece will join the United States and other NATO members in efforts to defeat militants of Islamic State (ISIS), an issue which is expected to be discussed in the summit of the transatlanti...
Inside News
Car sales drop a gear on VAT rate uncertainty
Different scenarios of changes to value-added tax rates have paralyzed the car market in the last couple of weeks. Expectations for a rate cut from 23 to 18 percent, and the governments int...
Bulk of loan requests comes from food service
The Greek growth model for small and medium-sized enterprises during the period of the crisis will have to change, senior banking officials stress. The majority of demands for corporate fina...
Inside Business
SOCCER
Greece escapes soccer suspension, FIFA happy with changes
FIFA says it is satisfied with changes made to sporting law in Greece, and has dropped a threat to suspend the country from international competition. In a letter to the government dated May...
SOCCER
Four-goal Panathinaikos thrashes Asteras away
Panathinaikos thrashed Asteras at Tripoli to gain an early advantage in the race for a spot in next seasons Champions League qualifiers, as the Super League play-offs got under way on Wedne...
Inside Sports
SPONSORED LINK: FinanzNachrichten.de
SPONSORED LINK: BestPrice.gr
RECENT NEWS
1. Deal no closer following PMs meetings in Riga
2. Greece to back NATO-led campaign against ISIS, Kammenos says
3. SYRIZA, ND waver over agreement
4. Nearly 800 irregular migrants detained as EU mulls refugee relocation plan
5. Car sales drop a gear on VAT rate uncertainty
6. Bulk of loan requests comes from food service
more news
Today
This Week
1. Merkel stamps out brief optimism on Greece after Tsipras talks
2. Lessons from Israels tech miracle
3. Tsipras to meet Juncker on second day of Riga summit
4. Civil aviation staff to hold walkout on holiday weekend
5. Banks will be asked to revise their restructuring plans
6. EOPYY struggles for funding, sees overdue debt rise
Today
This Week
1. The Greek-German breakthrough that didnt come
2. Conspiracy madness
3. Greece came close to not paying IMF
4. National self-awareness put to the test
5. Albanian demarche raises concerns about possible territorial claims over Greece
6. Greek endgame nears for Tsipras as bank collateral hits buffers
Find us ...
... on
Twitter
... on Facebook
About us  |  Subscriptions  |  Advertising  |  Contact us  |  Athens Plus  |  RSS  |   
Copyright 2015, H KAΘHMEPINH All Rights Reserved.