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Project Summary: “STOP HATE CRIMES IN EUROPE” March 14, 2011

Posted by cristobalgomez in Uncategorized.
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(European Justice against Hate Crimes)

Project presented by Movement against Intolerance in

“Penal Justice” Program

Approved and sponsored by:

Directorate General of Justice, Liberty, and Security of the European Commission

Project Consortium

Movement against Intolerance (Movimiento contra la Intolerancia)(promoting and coordinating organization for the project)

National University of Distance Education, Faculty of Law (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia. Facultad de Derecho)

Progressive Union of Public Prosecutors (UPF) (Unión Progresista de Fiscales)

The Police College of Finland

Portuguese Assosiation of Support for Victims (Associaçao Portuguesa de Apoio à Vitima)

1. Context

During the last few years in Europe, there has been an increase in violence and hate crimes against specific groups such as immigrants, ethnic minorities, religious groups, social, cultural, and ideologicial groups, people of certain sexual orientations, indigents, etc. Social, political, and institutional conditions, often permissive or with non-existent or ineffective legal instruments, are creating gaps and spaces in European democracies for the reorganization and strengthening of neo-Nazi, racist, and xenophobic organizations which, with an open transnational character, take advantage of all the opportunties of Rule of Law, new means of communication such as the Internet, improved geographic mobility, and globalization, in order to increase their widespread and organized criminal activity, taking advantage of the lack of coordination, mutual understanding, and agility of legal bodies and European institutions.

In many countries there is a lack of official statistics to quantify or establish indicators in regards to hate crimes.1 Many of the crimes are never reported because there are no adequate means to protect victims, or perhaps because victims form part of vulnerable groups which do not feel protected by the judicial system (illegal immigrants, indigents, “anti” youths, etc.) In many other instances, when hate crimes do reach courtrooms, they are considered crimes of assault and battery or common crimes without applying the aggravating factors for hate crimes.

In Spain, according to the RAXEN 2010 report,2 there are over 4,000 attacks per year; more than 80 people have died in recent years as victims of hate; over 200 racist, xenophobic, and antisemitic websites spread their messages of hatred; and hundreds of forums and blogs organize activities, manifestations, concerts, and acts which are clearly criminal, and even worse, produce hundreds of attacks on people and organizations with multiple injuries. In other European countries such as Italy, Germany, and Great Britain, in 2009 there was a concerning increase in racist violence and hate crimes.

Current legislation does not satisfactorily recognized the damage caused by hate crimes to peaceful and democratic coexistence, as well as to individual dignity and security. An important obstacle is the lack of a common definition among European countries; even in those countries which have adopted more severe sanctions when hatred is the motive of certain crimes, the laws and penal instruments are not always applied.

The Framework Decision 2008/913/JAI of the Council of November 28th, 2008 concerning the fight against determined forms and manifestations of racism and xenophobia by means of Criminal Law signified a fundamental step in the direction of recognizing racist and hate crimes in Europe and the consequent penal sanctions. The member states ordered a time of two years to integrate this rule into their respective legislation. The exchange of knowledge and common strategy are fundamental for the criminalization and persecution of this social blight which threatens European democracy and Rule of Law.

In 2009, Spain produced its first conviction for conspiracy to a neo-Nazi group, Hammer-Skin España,  in the Provincial Court of Madrid. Hammer-Skin España is a well-known organization with criminal intentions and whose ideology is “to promote discrimination, hatred, or violence against people, groups, or associations for their ideology, religion or beliefs, or the belonging of one or more of their members to an ethnicity, race, nation, gender, or sexual orientation…” The sentences imposed by the Court varied between 1 and 3 years.

Another historic step, also in Spain in September 2009, was taken when the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the National Court gave instructions to apply antiterrorist legislation to the activities of neo-Nazi groups. In his statements, the Director of Public Prosecutions confirmed that such crimes can be treated as terrorism under Article 577 of the Spanish Penal Code, so that although neo-Nazis are not involved in a so-called “terrorist organization,” their criminal acts have the purpose of terrorizing “political, social, or professional groups and certain sectors of the population identified by their ethnicity, religion, ideology, or sexual orientation.” In addition, a Special Public Prosecutor was created to be in charge of the persecution of groups of this nature. Previously, some months before, a Special Public Prosecutor’s Office for Hate Crimes and Discrimination was created in Cataluña, a pioneering initiative in the Spanish state, which began with intervention in cases of homophobia.  It is also worth noting that in Barcelona, the Public Prosecutor’s Office put into action, as well, the first service for hate crimes and discrimination to exist in Europe, whose function is collecting reports and acting ex officio in such cases, a momentous move in the legal persecution of hate crimes.

In other European countries, there also exist specific legal instruments which have been articulated in an attempt to provide effective tools to the members of the criminal justice system. However, mutual understanding of these instruments is very limited.

On the other hand, the weakest link in this issue continues to the be the victimes of hate crimes, who are protected and supported very poorly. It is believed that barely 10% of victims report attacks, and that those who do report often suffer persecution by the attackers themselves, isolation, lack of legal support, help, or legal counsel or psychological support.

It is necessary, therefore, to create support mechanisms for victims which are effective, free, multidimensional, and if necessary transnational, given that hate crimes often cross borders in an environment of European mobility. Moreover, the absense of effective measures and mechanisms to protect victims leads to, in many cases, new harrassments or attacks at the hands of organizations promoting intolerant behavior, when the victims are not subjected to situations of double victimizations during the proceedings which follow.

2. Focus and nature of the project

The project proposal centers on two objectives and consequent lines of work:

·     Increase mutual understanding, the exchange of experiences and the cooperation between members of criminal justice, in relation to the existing legal instruments in EU countries in the field of fighting Hate Crimes.

·     Promote a debate about the needs and the support mechanisms for victims of crimes motivated by prejudice and intolerance in Europe, culminating in a proposal for minimums about Measures of Protection and Support to Victims of Hate Crimes.

To deal with them, the project considers working from four dimensions:

(1)     The recognition of the European dimension in the problem with Hate Crimes.

(2)     The comparative study of legal tools and the identification of good practices.

(3)     Mutual understanding, cooperation, and sensitivity among members of criminal justice.

(4)    The incorporation and recognition of victims as an active part of the process.

 

3. Activities for project development

We consider the following activities and phases of work:

Phase I Implementation: A meeting to implement the project: Meeting of the partners, adoption of the operational work plan, systems of monitoring and continuous evaluation of the project, methods of communication among partners, administrative topics, etc. Meeting in Madrid. Presentation of the project in press conference.

Phase II Comparative study of the existing legislation and legal and procedural instruments to fight hate crimes in five countries of the EU, such as Spain, Germany, Portugal, Finland, and Italy.

Phase III Identification and description of Good Practices in the fight against hate crimes. The Good Practices will be able to deal with the issue from the point of view of cooperation between agents of criminal justice; the application of criminal law for the punishment of such crimes; and the protection and support of victims.

Phase IV Visit to conduct study in a European country.

Phase V Working commission for protection and  attention to victims which includes the victims of hate crimes themselves. Preparation of a publication with case studies, and concrete proposals for the adoption of a protocol of measures for the protection and support of victims of hate crimes.

Phase VI Design and development of an on-line Database to incorporate information about European sentences related to hate crimes, which can serve to help the study of jurisprudence in order to improve understanding of the legal instruments used in courts in this time of crime. This database will be in Spanish and English and will be available for interested legal agents to consult. Creation of a future European Network against Hate Crimes.

Phase VII Transnational meeting to present results and studies performed in order to the debate and prepare a Common Declaration against Hate Crimes in Europe which establishes an outline of the next steps to continue toward more effective judicial cooperation and the fight against this type of crime.

Phase VIII Project evaluation. Preparation of a Final Report. Spread and distribution of results with the maximum reach at a European level. In the European space, the project and its results will be distributed to MEDEL (Magistrats Européens pour la Démocratie et les Libertés), an entity which unites 16 associations of judges from 12 European Union member states, with a total of 15,000 members.

Duration of the project: 18 months

1 A hate crime is a crime directed against a person or a group of people because of prejudices or intolerance of the perpetrator toward the “race,” ethnic origin, relgion, ideology, sexual orientation, or other characteristic of the person or group. In a hate crime, the victim is intentionally selected for a specific characteristic.

2 RAXEN Report (Racism, Xenophobia, Antisemitism, Islamophobia, Neofascism, Homophobia, and other manifestations of Intolerance) published annually by Movement against Intolerance.

 

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