Hate crimes are criminal acts motivated by bias or prejudice towards particular groups of people. To be considered a hate crime, the offence must meet two criteria:
– first, the act must constitute an offence under criminal law
– second, the act must have been motivated by bias.
Bias motivations can be broadly defined as preconceived negative opinions, stereotypical assumptions, intolerance or hatred directed to a particular group that shares a common characteristic, such as “race”, ethnicity, language, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, gender or any other fundamental characteristic. People with disabilities may also be victims of hate crimes.
Hate crimes can include threats, property damage, assault, murder or any other criminal offence committed with a bias motivation. Hate crimes don’t only affect individuals from specific groups. People or property merely associated with – or even perceived to be a member of – a group that shares a protected characteristic, such as human rights defenders, community centres or places of worship, can also be targets of hate crimes.
Hate crimes affect the security of individuals, their communities and societies as a whole. Effective responses to hate crimes are necessary to prevent them from posing a serious security challenge. In extreme situations, they can lead to wars within and across national borders.
– Definition given by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the human rights institution of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) –
- If a person has shown a hostile or violent attitude/behaviour towards you on grounds of your race, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion or belief, or disability, that person has committed a hate crime.
- Racist or xenophobic insults can also be considered a crime. Don’t ignore the messages or offences posted in your social network profile pages, or sent to your email address or your mobile phone.
- If you are verbally threatened or subjected to derogatory language based on your race, ethnicity or religion, it is considered hate speech, which can also amount to a crime. In less serious cases, hate speech is punished as a misdemeanour.