Hate Crime refers to a physical or a verbal attack on an individual that is motivated by prejudice against that person because of a particular characteristic, for example, their sexual orientation or gender identity. Incidents of apparent hate crimes and hate group activities of this kind constitute at the moment an alarmingly frequent phenomenon in many European countries.
Human dignity is inviolable. It must be respected and protected. Everyone has the right to respect for his or her physical and mental integrity. EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (Articles 1 and 3(1)
Accordingly, violence and offences motivated by racism, xenophobia, religious intolerance, or by a person’s disability, sexual orientation or gender identity are all examples of hate crime, which harm not only those targeted but also strike at the heart of EU commitments to democracy and the fundamental rights of equality and non-discrimination. Today, this form of discriminatory violence and prejudice finds fertile breeding grounds in the current economic crisis. In September, José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, included a stark warning in his annual ‘state of the union’ address, saying that the euro crisis was contributing to the rise in extremism. In addition, the failure of many National governments in the European Union to adopt coherent migration policies, chronic mismanagement of the asylum system, and, most recently, the deep economic crisis and resulting austerity have exacerbated what the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) described in late 2016 as a “humanitarian crisis.
According to the FRA’s latest report EU-MIDIS Data in Focus 6: Minorities as Victims of Crime, victims and witnesses of hate crimes are reluctant to report them, whether to law enforcement agencies, the criminal justice system, non-governmental organisations or victim support groups. As a result, victims are often unable or unwilling to seek redress against perpetrators, with many crimes remaining unreported and unprosecuted and, therefore, invisible.
A practical step towards combating this increasingly worrying phenomenon would be to foresee the provision of comprehensive and easily accessible information to victims of hate crime, made available in various forms (audio visual, web – based and written.) Moreover, we should direct our focus in countries which the economic crisis has contributed to the outburst of the phenomenon, with the purpose of encouraging victims to report the crime against them and witnesses to testify against the offender/s. The end goal must be to acknowledge victims, make these crimes more visible and hold perpetrators to account.