How can hate crimes be effectively tackled by both Member States and the European Union? This was the central question of a panel debate organised by the European Parliament’s Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup (ARDI) and the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) on 29 November 2012.

Presentation of new FRA reports on hate crimes

Hate button on keyboard
Copyright mtkang, 2012.
Used under licence from Shutterstock.com

The event began with the presentation of two new reports on hate crime by the FRA. Both reports show that violence and crimes motivated by racism, xenophobia, religious intolerance or by a person’s disability, sexual orientation or gender identity are a daily reality in the European Union. Another relevant finding which emerged from the reports is that the majority of victims do not report crimes. In addition to that, only a few Member States maintain comprehensive data collection mechanisms. FRA stresses that making hate crimes visible and acknowledging the rights of victims is of considerable importance. It proposes that this be achieved by recognising hate crime in both national and European legislation, by collecting comprehensive data on incidents and by setting up mechanisms to encourage victims to report.

The work of the ODIHR

The issue of under-reported and under-recorded cases of hate crime was also highlighted by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODHIR), which among others collects and publishes data on hate crimes in the OSCE region. Moreover, the institution pointed to the need for better enforcement of existing laws. To this end, ODHIR has developed special tools for law enforcement officers and prosecutors in the OSCE States.

Limitations of EU law

On the European level, hate crimes are prohibited by Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA. However, this instrument is only limited to racism and xenophobia, which leaves Member States the room not to criminalise hate crimes based on other grounds such as sexual orientation and disability. Moreover, three Member States have not yet submitted any notifications of implementing measures. At the moment the European Commission is assessing the compliance of national laws with EU law. An implementation report is due in 2013.