Hate crime is defined by ODIHR as a criminal offence committed with a bias motive. It can be directed against persons belonging to a certain group, property, or against those associated with the group. The perpetrators of the crime choose their victims because of a certain protected characteristic, which includes "race", language, religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation or disability.
While many countries have legislation on hate crime, disability is included as one of the protected characteristics only in few countries, such as the United Kingdom and Spain. The lack of legislation, in combination with low awareness about the fact people with disabilities can be victims of hate crime, absence of training for police officers, schools and members of the judiciary, and a number of other factors, mean that hate crime against people with disabilities is often unreported and is not adequately dealt with. Reflecting on the prevalence of hate crime, Berit Vegheim, a lawyer at the Norwegian organisation ULOBA, said: "You don't see it until you believe it. That is why people think there are no hate crimes against people with disabilities in their countries."
As shared by participants during the workshop, many people with disabilities experience some form of harassment on a daily basis. They are stared at, not addressed directly, passed inappropriate comments, asked personal questions by members of the public, and their personal space is often not respected. In more extreme cases, people with disabilities are robbed, physically and sexually abused, and even murdered. Yet, while countries like the UK reported hundreds of incidents of hate crime against people with disabilities to ODIHR, some such as Kyrgyzstan reported only two.
As a result of the workshop, ENIL and ODIHR agreed to work towards including disability as one of the explicitly mentioned protected characteristics for hate crime in the OSCE region. In addition, ENIL will form a network on hate crime among workshop participants to help collect information about incidents of hate crime against people with disabilities, and to share good practice in organising training and awareness raising activities among disabled people's organisations. In this way, ENIL hopes to contribute to increased recognition and better reporting of hate crime against people with disabilities in Europe, and ultimately to improved prevention and better justice for victims of hate crime.
More information about the network and other activities related to hate crime will be available on the ENIL website www.enil.eu.