The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Brenda Bowser Soder
202-370-3323 - office

Intergovernmental Report: Hate Crime Remains

Human Rights First, Anti-Defamation League Issue Analysis Highlighting Inadequate Government Response


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
fiancee in Pennsylvania, and acts of vandalism and personal assaults
targeting Christians, Muslims, Jews, and other religious persons and
property are among the long list of violent hate crimes that generated
shock waves through entire communities, ultimately affecting millions
of people.

"Governments must step up their efforts to combat hate violence and
enlist the help of ODIHR's experts to improve their legislative
frameworks, institute sound data collection mechanisms, and train law
enforcement officials." concluded LeGendre.

Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C. Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence.