On 14th June, ENIL participated in the plenary meeting of the EU High Level Group on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and other forms of intolerance, organised by DG Justice at the European Commission.
ENIL is part of the Facing All the Facts Project, coordinated by CEJI – A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe. The aim of the project is to make hate crime visible and to strengthen the capacity of law enforcement and EU citizens on the topic. During the meeting, Joanna Perry (Policy Researcher for the Facing All the Facts Project) presented the research on hate crime and announced that the first outcomes of a new online training platform, which ENIL helped develop, will be presented in September 2018.
The first part of the meeting highlighted the need to raise awareness of law enforcement services, such as the police and prosecutors, on the issue of hate related crime and intolerance. Justice departments from several countries – such as Sweden and the Netherlands – gave examples about victim support and awareness raising trainings in their countries.
A strong civil society with independent organisations to act as a go between for signalling hate crime was also identified as a crucial factor to combat intolerance. NGOs are essential to build up trust between discriminated groups and the justice services. By building up a strong community network, organisations can empower people and also informally pick up on hate incidences before they turn into hate crimes.
Throughout the event, there was discussion about the concept of Hate Crime and how to establish if the motive of a crime was really ‘hate’. ENIL contributed to this debate by pointing out that it was important to go deeper than just the hate motive. Rather than focusing on this, we should investigate if a personal trait or label, such as disability or skin colour, contributed to the fact that a person was the victim of a crime.
ENIL further highlighted that disabled people sometimes face very specific barriers to report a hate related crime or incident. This could be dependence on others to be able to go to the justice services or insufficient accessibility and support to make your case when you do arrive at a police station. Disabled people can also be victims of abuse by support persons. The power imbalance and risks connected to this tend to increase even more in institutional care settings.
During the final session of the high level meeting, a number of recommendations were formulated:
- There was a broad agreement on the need to address the underreporting of hate crime by strengthening the civil society and improving data collection.
- A second recommendation was to provide training to improve the awareness of the justice services about hate crime. This should lead to more trust and also facilitate the participation of minority groups in the public and civil service.
- The meeting participants also agreed that, in order to really address hate crime, we should continue to work together to find a common European definition of what constitutes a hate crime. This will once again be on the agenda of the next high level meeting.