In times of crisis, minorities & vulnerable groups become scapegoats for society’s ills Participants at an OSCE meeting on hate crimes have called on states to step up their efforts to combat bias-motivated violence more effectively.
More than 130 experts and representatives of governments and civil society participated in the two-day meeting, organized by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) in Vienna, Austria.
"An important incentive for addressing this issue is a reported increase in violent incidents, across the OSCE region, that could fall within the category of hate crimes. The current economic crisis is possibly one exacerbating factor for this distressing trend," said Ambassador Mara Marinaki, representing the Greek OSCE chairmanship at the meeting.
ODIHR Director Ambassador Janez Lenarcic said: "The OSCE participating States have repeatedly reaffirmed their commitment to combat crimes motivated by racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance. While these commitments are important, the true test is whether they lead to results on the ground."
He added that in times of crisis, minorities and vulnerable groups tend to become scapegoats for the ills of society.
"We can see an increase in openly-expressed hostility towards minorities, and at the same time reports of increasing numbers of hate crimes. Even where this hostility does not translate into violence, many minority communities say they feel fearful and vulnerable," Lenarcic said.
In a joint statement presented to the meeting, civil society representatives called on governments that have not yet done so to enact laws that establish specific offences or provide enhanced penalties for violent bias-motivated crimes.
They urged governments to maintain official systems of monitoring and public reporting to provide accurate data for informed policy decisions to combat violent hate crimes.
The statement also asked governments to ensure that police and investigators are properly trained and instructed to identify, investigate and register bias motives, and that those responsible for hate crimes are held accountable under the law, in a well-documented and publicized way.