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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Target hate speech and hate crimes

March 21st 2017

Statement by Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 21 March 2017

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is an annual reminder to us all to do more to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, hate speech and hate crimes, said the Commissioner, and highlighted how equality bodies and national human rights institutions play an important role in combating such discrimination. The Commissioner also underlined the importance of data collection on hate crimes to understand causes, and design and implement targeted action to bring about real change.

The High Commissioner stated that people of African descent continue to be victims of racist hate crimes and racism in all areas of life, and that anti-Semitism continues to rear its ugly head from the US to Europe to the Middle East and beyond. He also pointed to the evident dangers of demonising particular groups across the world, such as xenophobic riots and violence targeting immigrants have recently flared again in South Africa.

The Commissioner acknowledged that we face a world where discriminatory practices are still widespread, but that equality bodies and national human rights institutions in many countries work to prevent and combat such discrimination. "Progress here needs to continue, including through affirmative action, training and representation of ethnic and racial minorities," said the Commissioner.

In his statement, the High Commissioner also refereed to statistical findings on hate crimes:

  • UK Government statistics showed a sharp increase in reported hate crime in the weeks following the 23 June 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union, in which immigration was a dominant issue.
  • In Germany in 2016, there were approximately 10 attacks a day on migrants and refugees, a rise of 42 per cent on 2015.
  • Cases of reported hate crimes increased more than three-fold in Spain from 2012, reaching 1,328 in 2015.
  • Italy saw reported hate crimes rise from 71 to 555 in 2015; Finland experienced a doubling of reported hate crimes from 2014 to 2015, when 1,704 incidents were reported.

"These figures paint a partial picture of the situation in the respective countries but there are many States that do not collect data on racist hate crimes, leaving the true extent of the problem obscured. Tackling racism and xenophobia begins with understanding the scope of the problem. I encourage States to do more to collect disaggregated data, including on the basis of race and ethnicity, so they can monitor trends, understand causes and design and implement targeted action to bring about real change," said the High Commissioner

Read the statement here.