News 13 Nov 12

OSCE: Hate Crimes Threaten Bosnian Society

Hate crimes are hampering reconciliation process in Bosnia and Herzegovina, warns an OSCE report.

Denis Dzidic

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE, in the report titled “Tackling Hate Crimes”, warns that the Bosnian society, which is still recovering from the early 90's conflict, faces a challenge to rebuild trust amongst national groups because of hate crimes.

According to the chief of the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Fletcher Burton, crimes based on prejudice against a particular ethnic group are corroding the Bosnian society.

“Hate crimes strike at the very fabric of this society. They destroy trust and communities. This is why we do not want to leave this report on the shelf. We will continue our advocacy campaign and use these recommendations to improve the work of various agencies dealing with these issues”, said Burton.

Sasa Bojanic, the national legal officer of the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina who worked on the report, said that the most common hate crimes in the country are verbal and physical assaults on members of different ethnic groups and attacks on religious objects.

The OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina has issued set of recommendations for the Bosnian authorities and civil society organisations after it had monitored 100 hate crime trials in the country.

The OSCE wants harsher punishment for hate crimes than sentences for the same offences in their ordinary form to ensure there is a “just and fair redress for the damage suffered”.

“Both the explicit reference to a bias motivation behind a criminal act and the compensations for damage are important ways of recognizing the gravity of the offence,” states the report.

Ambassador Burton specifies that the OSCE recommendations on how to tackle hate crimes revolve around five issues.

The OSCE wants improvement in legislation, specialized training for judicial and law enforcement agencies, better data collection on hate crimes, as well as increasing public condemnation of crimes and support for civil society organizations working on reconciliation.

Adam Kobieracki, the Director of the OSCE Conflict Prevention Centre, who also attended the presentation of the report on Tuesday, said it is vital that hate crimes are prosecuted and condemned because they “provoke tension that can evolve into conflict”.

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