Hate crime is even more harmful to victims than other types of crime. Hate crime constitutes an assault on the victims essential sense of personal worth. A person who has been singled out for victimisation based on some group characteristic, such as his or hers sexual preference, race, gender or ethnicity, has, by the very act, been deprived of the right to participate in the life of the community on an equal footing for reasons that have nothing to do with what the victim has done, but everything to do with what the victim is. Namely, a bias-based attack is as much an attack on the victims persona as on the victims person. Recognition of this fact inevitably produces a sense of vulnerability, isolation and oppression that rarely disappears with the healing of physical injuries.
Hate crime has wider impact than ordinary crime. Hate crime affects not only the victim, but all the members of the victims group as well, along with all the other groups vulnerable to this type of crime. Hate crime attacks the community cohesion and the social order in general, leading to distrust, fear, and anxiety. Hate crime legislation sends a clear message that homo/bi/transphobia, racism and bigotry will not be tolerated inside the community. They help to create climate of tolerance and respect for differences which, when combined with education, diminish the likelihood of violent hate crime being committed or accepted.
In Croatia, there is no statistic data on the motives of hate crime. Upon demanding from the State authorities to produce statistics on crime motivated by victims religion, race, ethnic origin, skin color, assets or sexual orientation, we were answered that these values were protected in the context of crime of violation of equality of citizens (Article 106 of the Penal Code) and crime of racial and other discrimination (Article 174 Section 1 of the Penal Code). On the basis of the data given by the State authorities to the OSCE (OSCE 2005, Combatting Hate Crimes in the OSCE Region: An Overview of Statistics, Legislation, and National Initiatives), Croatia was categorized in a group of countries that did have regulations on hate crimes (Article 174 of the Penal Code Racial and other Discrimination).
On the other hand, inquiries of the Legal Team of Iskorak and Kontra as to the statistics on crime in which the perpetrator is motivated by a characteristic of the victim that identifies the victim as a member of a certain social group, we received an answer only in regards to crimes of discrimination in a sense of an unequal treatment and hate speech (regulated in Article 174 Section 3 of Penal Code). We didnt receive any data on crime motivated by the perpetrator’s hatred of a certain social group, leading us to conclude that such crimes are not treated with notable difference as compared to non-bias crimes, and that special statistics are not being gathered in regards to hate crimes.
Collecting data is particularly problematic when it concerns hate crime against sexual minorities, because victims of such crimes mostly do not report acts of violence and discrimination against them due to fear of revealing their sexual orientation or gender identity, and their distrust of legal protection afforded to them in Croatia. The Penal Code itself affords protection of sexual minorities against some crimes, but not all hate crimes. The crime of violation of citizens’ equality, or the crime of racial and other discrimination, only covered crimes of discrimination (unequal treatment, hate speech), but did not cover other crimes motivated by victims affiliation (such as homicide committed against a transgender person, motivated by victims gender expression). Therefore, the Legal Team, supported by the Womens Network of Croatia and the Center for Peace Studies, has drafted and presented to public three draft amendments to the Penal Code which included definition of hate crime.
There is also another serious problem, which refers to the Croatian Penal Code and its Section 174 Section 3, designed to address hate speech. The interpretation of Section 3 indicated that direct intent was to be proven in each instance; therefore it was impossible to implement this provision in practice. All hate speech cases that have so far been presented to the Legal Team were dismissed by the Public Attorneys Office because direct intent of offender was impossible to prove. The reasoning was that the suspect stated his/her opinion about the topic in question without any intent to propagate hatred on the basis of someones sexual orientation. Therefore, we suggested that words with the aim of propagating racial, religious, gender, national or ethnic hatred. or hatred on the basis of skin color, or with the aim of degrading another person be deleted from Section 174 Section 3 of the Penal Code, so as to be exempt from the requirement to prove direct intent in respect to the hate speech offenders. We shall include changes to Section 174 Section 3 of the Penal Code in our amendments to the Penal Code.
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